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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.”