God chose to give us free will. No, this isn’t that post about sovereignty and free will. I’ll just insert this one statement: in his sovereignty, God gave us free will. What do I mean when I say “free will”? Humans are unique. Being made in God’s image, we are different from animals. Animals have free will to an extent. They can choose to move different directions, to take certain actions. But they are also bound by instinct and act on it often (if not always—I’ll save that argument for another day). What animals cannot do is make moral choices. They have no capacity to understand the concept of morality and therefore, do not make moral decisions. I explain it in my class this way: we don’t take a lion to court for eating a zebra because it isn’t a moral issue. But we do take a human to court for killing someone because it is a moral issue. So, when I say “free will” I mean a human’s ability to make moral choices.
God gave this ability to us from the beginning of time. He gave man the choice to obey him or not obey him in the form of a rule regarding a tree. Man had a choice to make—a moral choice. We know that eventually he chose to make the wrong choice. He ate the fruit and thus transformed the world into a place filled with evil choices and a human nature incapable of choosing correctly every time.
This is why we live in a world where every day we face choices, many of them moral. This also means that it is inevitable people, and ourselves, will at times choose the wrong choice. Some may wonder why God would give us free will. If it leads to pain, why give it to us? Interestingly, I have yet to find someone who doesn’t want his or her free will. We like having a choice. We like making decisions. We get upset when people usurp this from us. We hate slavery because it impedes freedom and intrinsically, free will choice. There seems to be something within us that cherishes choice.
So, why did God give this to us? Why not just make us love him and do right all the time? The answer to these questions can be found in our creation. We are made in God’s image. As such, we have capacities that are unique to us: we have higher reason, creative ability, an eternal soul. And we also have moral free will. God could not make us in his image without giving us free will. God is an ethical being. Thus, he made us to be ethical beings. He gave us the capacity to be moral. Remember that the animals, not made in God’s image, have no morality. We have the choice to be moral because this reflects God’s image in us.
God also gave us free will because he wanted us to have a relationship with him. A personal relationship implies the freedom to choose to love. If God created us so that we had no choice, then we would not have a personal relationship with him. Our love would not be love. We would be programmed, manipulated beings. Love does not force and manipulate. Thus, to have a personal relationship with God we must be free to love.
Thus, God gave us free will to reflect him and to enter into a personal relationship with us. And in our free will, we have choice and we can choose right and we can choose wrong. We love our free choice. We have no problem with the fact that we get to choose. What is interesting is that we get upset at God’s gift of free will to man when others get to choose and they choose incorrectly and evil occurs. It is ironic that what we so cherish in ourselves we so loathe in others. Yes, we should loathe evil. People make moral choices that are wrong and evil and this grieves us. But we can’t get mad at God because this also grieves God. He would rather we use our creation in his image and our capacity to love to make the right choices. When evil occurs, we are to blame, never God. It is our choice, not his.
Moral free will is a gift to us. It is a gift we must use wisely and carefully. Gratefully, God did not leave us on our own to figure out how to use this gift. In his word to man, in the scriptures, we find direction. We find that God expresses to us what goodness is and how to live it. We are told the right choice to make and the consequences for the wrong choice. So God has not left us adrift. He has shown us how to choose to live morally and in love. He’s even given us the prime example: Jesus Christ.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).