As I reflect on the life of Jesus, I realize that he never coerced anyone to follow him. He called, implored, asked,…but didn’t use brute force. His ways were gentle.
Ladies, how would you feel if you were pushed into a corner (figuratively or physically) and told dogmatically that you “must” do something specific, whether you wanted to our not, because a man said to you, “I’m the man and I say so!”? Perhaps– a spouse? A boss? A father? Someone else?
I wonder how many of you would be endeared to such a man. Would you be endeared to that kind of approach, or, would you be scared of him? Would that cause you to love him more, or less? Would you be drawn to him because of his gentleness and concern for you? Or, would you feel trapped and threatened? Would you be hurt? Would you be endeared by such a dogmatic and diabolical approach? Would you be inclined to do what you were being commanded to do? This is certainly no way to approach another person, in any context. Incase there is any doubt, look at the life of Jesus and search for examples of coercion.
God, in his infinite wisdom, and amazing love, gave us freedom. He gave us the choice to love him or not to. He doesn’t use brute force. He simply loves us, in unimaginable ways, and we are drawn to him. If he forced us, that wouldn’t be love. How can we love what we fear? what we hate? what we are forced to do? Where is the joy? That isn’t love… that’s deception, falsehood, and selfishness. There is no love or joy in the lack of freedom. God’s nature is not to force us to him. He pleads, guides, directs, yearns, exhorts, implores, talks… he loves, God loves us into following him– He loves us into it.
He initiates the relationship. In our deadness, he reaches in with a message of life and hope. But we do have the choice. Some may say now at this point that “a dead man can’t choose God.” True. Some may also say, “how can one possibly say no to his irresistible grace and love?” True, how could anyone resist the love of God who truly understood His love?
But what about Adam? I had a pastor a few years ago who used to say, “Do you know what Adam’s first words were?” ‘Um, who’s that breathing up my nostrils?’” Funny, huh?! I always got a chuckle out of that.
God was the first being that Adam knew. God and Adam walked every night in the garden. God taught Adam how to take care of the garden, all about the plants, all about the animals…I can imagine God had to teach Adam practically everything. The very first marriage how-to manual was spoken by God to Adam! Where do babies come from? That too, was taught by God to Adam. Of course. Was Adam just born, er, created, knowing all that?? Are we?? No, it had to be taught at some point… and that very first education came from God himself. Can you imagine the joy of that relationship? Do you think Adam knew God in a way that we don’t? Good question. Do we walk and talk with God in a manner similar to Adam? Would we do any better than Adam did? We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’d act any differently when faced with the temptation of eating the forbidden fruit.
If Adam, who had walked with God and spoke with him, for crying out loud, could then go off and choose something else, and disobey, for goodness’ sake– well then, good heavens, what in the world are we going to do???
Apparently, God allowed Adam the freedom to make a choice. God knew what would happen, yet at that crucial moment, He did not intervene. Instead, God let Adam choose on his own. Then, God spoke to Adam and Eve about the consequences of that sin, and revealed his plan to redeem mankind. Perhaps his great love could only be understood by us stubborn humans if he allowed us to choose something inferior, thus allowing us to see our loss and hopelessness, and then offer us what we thought we had lost, so that we could understand the depth of his love.
Can you imagine Adam’s grief? It must have been profound, when he saw the consequences of disobedience. The earth was changed. His life was changed. How often he must have thought of that moment with deep regret and sorrow.
Our God is a God of freedom. He allows us to make choices. He doesn’t push us into a corner, or stuff us into a box. He doesn’t force us to love him. In doing so, He affirms who we are. He affirms our worth, our dignity,… He knows our complete identity is found within Himself, yet He doesn’t force us. Doesn’t that show incredible restraint??? Gentleness?? He is worthy, deserving, yet he doesn’t force himself upon us…He must be longing, yearning for us to understand, yet He doesn’t intervene, forcing us to love him! He wants us to make the choice!
Have you ever had someone demand respect from you? Obviously, demands and force don’t earn respect; on the contrary, it pushes people away. Have you ever had someone take over your life, giving no regard to who you are as a person created in God’s image? Someone who has essentially said “this is what you’re gonna do… and I don’t care if it hurts you to do it. Your opinion, essentially, doesn’t matter. Neither do your ideas, thoughts on the matter, your dreams…. You don’t matter. Your opinion, thoughts, ideas don’t fit into my equation. What I say, what I want– that matters… Because I think I’m right, and you’re wrong. Period.” What if an adult spoke that to another adult? It sounds quite a bit like slavery. Dogmatic and diabolical.
I ask you, would that be love?? Is that love, or control? “Love doesn’t seek its own, but seeks the joy of others.” A person using force and demands isn’t really loving, and isn’t allowing the Holy Spirit to do its work. A person like that is trying to control his/her life by controlling other people. There is no love in that. Love means giving the freedom of choice.
It makes God look all the more gentle, loving, and praiseworthy. He doesn’t demand our love! He commands us to praise, and this we do, naturally, spontaneously, out of the heart that loves him. It isn’t forced, but flows out freely. God says throughout his book, “this is who I am, and this is what I’ve done for you, and will do through you…this is how much I love you… see, what I’ve done!!” And then we see a picture of the cross. And then, only then, do we understand what love really is. And then we can begin to love others.
And we realize it is a message with absolutely no equal. And we freely submit to God, and find we are finally complete. And we haven’t been forced into it.
Dear Heavenly Father, your love is perfect. Your example is the epitome of perfection. We are completely free in you. We’re free from sin, from tyranny, from all that would hold us in bondage. You teach us what love is, what it means, and how to love.