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There’s a general expectation of Christians that they should do everything they can to help people. Much of this expectation comes from Christians themselves and takes the form of charity work, volunteerism, and counseling.
But is this scriptural?
God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from falling prey to the serpent in the garden. He warned them not to eat from the tree of good and evil, and promised them that if they did, they would die, but otherwise he let them be. He respected their free-will right to choose, even if they chose self-condemnation.
Jesus also didn’t interfere with people’s free will choices. Most famously, he permitted Judas Iscariot to make the choice to betray him, a choice that would end in Judas’s eternal damnation. Jesus didn’t try to stop him; he let Judas make his own choice and suffer the consequences of it.
Unfortunately, many Christians don’t follow Biblical precedent when it comes to respecting other people’s free will. Instead, they try to force people to choose what they want them to choose. I am as guilty of this as anyone else, wanting people to choose God because I know from personal experience the rewards that come from choosing God. But even God doesn’t force people to choose him. He gives us free will, tells us right and wrong – even writes it on our hearts – lets us know the rewards for choosing right or wrong, and then lets us be. He lets us make our own choices, even if those choices lead to our death.
We need to back away from forcing people to do what we believe is in their best interest. We need to respect EVERYONE’S God-given right to free will choice, no matter how difficult it may be. Wanting to protect people from themselves is not a godly impulse, even though it’s been dressed up as such. It’s not virtuous; it’s controlling, and bordering on tyrannical.
Parents, obviously, need to guide their children until the children are old enough to know right from wrong and make their own choices. The parents can then continue to remind the children of the rewards of right and wrong choices, but at some point, even parents have to back away and let their children mess up, if that’s what they choose.
This is not an easy lesson. If God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from choosing death, and Jesus didn’t stop Judas Iscariot from the same, then who are we to force our opinions on those who not only don’t share them, but also don’t want to hear about them?
Our individual free will is the only thing we own free and clear. Everything else is on loan from God. Each of us will stand alone before God on Judgement Day and will have to account for what we did with our free will (in much the same way as the people in the parable who were given talents had to account for how many more they made from the original one), and that account will form the basis of our judgement. We dare not interfere with other people’s free will, any more than they dare interfere with ours. If God doesn’t interfere with people’s free will and Jesus doesn’t either, then neither should we. Our concern, each of us, should be for our own free will only. Let others, of their own volition, choose Heaven or the lake of fire; warn them, remind them, but don’t force their hand, even if you believe you’re “saving” them from themselves.
As God has told us many times in scripture, starting with Adam and Eve:
“I set before you life and death: Choose life.”
God means business.
The “everyone gets a gold star” mentality has no place in God’s kingdom on Earth. Not everyone is going to make it to Heaven. In fact, most people, as a result of their own free-will choices, will end up in Hell.
This is the hard-core reality that should govern everything we do every day.
Jesus spent a lot of time haranguing his disciples for their lack of faith. He nagged them and goaded them solely to remind them that God means business. It’s not enough to be Jewish. It’s not enough to be born-again. It’s not enough just to “believe” or to do “good works”.
You must have faith, and you must also demonstrate that you have faith. You do this by submitting 100% to God in everything you do. Not just a little bit, not just in some things, and not just on Sundays, but in everything, every day, all day.
Faith is trusting only in God and doing God’s will even if it is contrary to the way of the world. Faith is submitting to God for no other reason than it is the right thing to do in God’s eyes. Faith is not only knowing that God knows best, but showing that God knows best. You do this by making God-inspired choices every day, all day. Faith is lived, not just spoken about.
We all have an expiry date on our bodies. Our souls will go on, but our bodies will die. The expiry date of our body is our own personal End Of The World. This could happen at any time, even today. Where we are at that time in our relationship with God (in other words, the extent of our faith) determines where we’ll spend eternity.
God means business. He loves us all the same and he wants us all to come home, but if we aren’t submitting to him 100% in everything we do for whatever time we have left on Earth, we can’t go home. There’s no place in Heaven for rebellion against any aspect of God. It’s God’s way or no way.
Jesus showed us what full submission to God looks like. He lived The Way and taught The Way, and our job, before our expiry date arrives, is to live it and teach it just as Jesus did.
God means business. I cannot stress enough how real and how permanent Heaven and Hell are. Heaven is the best we’ve experienced and can imagine; Hell is the worst we’ve experienced and feared. We can choose our way to Heaven, or we can choose our way to Hell.
This is the hard-core truth: Most of us will end up in Hell.
Jesus said that the path home is narrow, and those who find it are few.
Not everyone gets a gold star.
God means business.
Just a reminder.
Christians are a funny bunch. They spend a lot of time in group hugs and “sharing” sessions, all the while lamenting what a rough time they’ve had at the hands of parents, spouses or acquaintances before they became Christians. They even sometimes go into gory details about their abusers, offering up their abuse stories for sympathy (I suppose), although they mask it as a learning or a teaching moment.
These stories aren’t teaching anyone anything except how NOT to choose to forgive.
When we choose to forgive, we should do the same thing as God does when he forgives – forget about it. Forgetting about it means to CONSCIOUSLY choose to put it to the back of our minds, even if it keeps popping up. It’s a decision of the will. It’s not a feeling (you won’t feel like forgetting and you may even feel like you can’t forget; that’s why it’s a decision, not an emotion-based response). Ask God to help you with this. He’s more than happy to help you. THAT’S WHAT HE’S THERE FOR.
If you truly want to forgive, don’t talk about people who’ve hurt you and whom you’ve chosen to forgive. Don’t talk about what they’ve done to you, however horrible it was and however deeply it scarred you. As a born-again, you’ve become a completely new person. God has forgiven you because you’ve chosen to forgive everyone who’s hurt you. Whatever people did to you in the past, pre-rebirth, is dead and done; whatever people are doing to you now, post-rebirth, is likewise dead and done after you’ve chosen to forgive them (which you should do as soon as you notice someone’s hurt you).
Here’s what you do when you choose to forgive: You simply act as if it never happened, you pray for your abusers, and you keep a safe distance from them. If people prod you to talk about your experience, tell them it’s over and you don’t want to talk about it anymore. If you feel it starting to overwhelm you, take your pain to God in private. He wants to counsel and comfort you. He’s your counselor and your comforter. Chances are pretty good that he’ll tell you what I’m telling you – if you want the pain to go away, choose to forgive and TOTALLY forget.
Imagine if God says he forgives us one day, and then turns around the next day and starts railing at us about things we did two years ago! That would be very confusing for us and also very un-Godlike. Once God forgives us for something, he forgives us that thing forever. We’re supposed to do things God’s way, as Jesus did, and as Jesus taught us to do.
Remember: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Choosing to forgive also means choosing to forget.
God will help you with this. Just ask him. He loves you. He’s waiting. Ask him.