by Chris Banescu –
God respects our freedom and does not force us to love or follow Him. He expects the same consideration from us. He wants us to respect His freedom in deciding if, when, and how He acts. Mutual respect of one another’s freedom is a precondition to all healthy and loving relationships, especially our relationship with our eternal Father, the Lord of all creation.
From the very beginning God created us to have free will. He gave us the freedom to chose right or wrong, to either love or reject Him. Knowing that free will would eventually bring about evil, God nevertheless gave us the liberty to chose and be in control of our destiny. He most likely did this because, “free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having,” wrote C.S. Lewis. A world of puppets on a string, of creatures that were no better than programmed robots and worked like computerized machines, would “hardly be worth creating.”
The happiness that God designs and wants for His higher creatures is the joy of freely choosing, trusting, and loving Him. The eternal bliss that God promises is the “happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water,” proclaimed Lewis. And in order for that to happen man must be free.
Just as God values our freedom, He wants us to respect His freedom also. Unfortunately, we often forget about this particular aspect of our relationship with God. Reciprocated love, trust, and respect are necessary attributes of all true and lasting friendships, whether with others or God.
In their book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend discuss the importance of freedom and mutual respect as key characteristics of true friendship. These timeless truths should have been obvious, but I must confess that I had not previously considered the full implications they entailed. Some of their insights are synthesized and further developed in this article.
God wants us to respect His boundaries. When, if, or how, He chooses to act is His business, not ours. If He says no to us, then that is His right, His free will. If we want to have a genuine relationship with the Lord, then we must be considerate of His freedom. When we corner God and expect Him to respond, to do something, we are distrusting and disrespecting His autonomy.
This same pattern can be seen in human relationships. We expect others to respect our freedom of choice, but we don’t reciprocate. Forgetting that freedom is a two-way street, we judge them for being themselves and acting freely. We become angry with others when they chose not to do what we want them to do. When they act independently of us and ignore our wishes we unfairly condemn them. To punish them we sometimes withdraw our love and break our friendship. While we ourselves do not like others to manipulate us or control us with guilt, we shamelessly do the same to others.
We behave similarly in our relationship with the Lord. We feel entitled to God’s favor and don’t stop to consider His right to choose. We assume that He will do what we want Him to do and try to guilt Him into action. This is an attempt to manipulate Him and place Him in our service. This is childish and immature. How do we feel when others ask us for a favor but don’t give us the freedom to respond as we see fit? Yet precisely this entitlement attitude distorts people’s understanding of God and makes them dissatisfied with Him. They detest the freedom and free will of God, just like they hate the freedom of others.
God, the eternal Creator and infinite Lord of the universe is free from us. Whether or not He acts and how he responds to our supplications and requests is completely His choice. He is our Father and friend, not our servant. We cannot compel or manipulate Him into doing what we want. He does things, like creating us and giving us life, and sending His Son to die and rise again for our salvation and redemption, because He wants to. His freedom allows Him to love us, the same way He expects us to voluntarily and freely love and embrace Him.
We must remember that just as we want others to respect our free will and individual choices, God desires that we respect His freedom and free will. Our relationship with Him, as with all true friends, must be grounded in trust and the freedom of the individual to freely love and act. We must make sure that when we pray “Thy will be done” we really mean it.