In contemplating the amazing love of God, the next natural topic is how love cannot be forced. Scripturally speaking love is, after all, a choice (see. Jer. 31:3; Eph. 1:4-5). Thus, for a human to love God, he must be free to choose to do so. And the madness of all this is that God will not force the choice of love upon us; He will woo, He will call, He will plead, He will provide, but He will never force it. God respects our choices.
Consider that: God respects the choices you make. He gives you causality. He allows you to decide where you will go, whether towards Him or away from Him. Sometimes He will even allow us to thwart the designs He has for us, because He loves us and will not impinge on the privilege of choice He has granted us (see the blessings and curses laid out in Dt. 28). He sometimes shields us from the consequences of our choices, but usually does not. Jesus even points out that people are judged not by Him, but by their own decision against Him (John 3:18)! I wonder if Christ would not have returned sooner if the Church had chosen to consecrate herself to Him rather than go after her own glory and political power. In the end, God is sovereign, and His plan will come to pass, but He allows us to bounce His plan around a bit through what we choose or do not choose.
The fascinating, scary and terrible thing is that when we choose for or against God in this world, He allows us to maintain that choice into eternity. No one is forced to spend eternity with God who doesn’t want to. Think on that: we choose heaven and we choose hell, because God loves us. The thing is, for choice to be true choice, grace cannot be irresistible. That is why the only forced worship we see is at the end of the age before all those who chose against God are granted their dearest wish: to be away from Him for all eternity (Php. 2:9-10; Rev. 20:11-15); alone; in pain; without His grace to sustain them.
This is uncomfortable for many, because we want choice without the responsibility. We like to cling to the notion that God has everything under control and that nothing reaches me that is outside of His will. This is true, but it cannot absolve us of the awful responsibility that comes with choice. Through His death, Christ guaranteed my salvation. Through my choices (and the choices of those around me) my path to salvation will be difficult or not. I will be weak or strong. I will be Spirit-filled or not. I will be submissive or not. It is my choice. But praise be to God who wills and works out His good purpose within me (Php. 2:13). In the end I can lean on Him, to know that whether I choose right or wrong, He will carry me through.
Image credit: Kevin Carden | Lightstock