When my children were born they were exactly as I expected. I'd been around babies before, you see. I'm the oldest daughter in a large family, the oldest grand-daughter in an even larger extended family. There were babies galore in my childhood. So when my babies came along, I wasn't surprised that they ate and cried (sometimes ALOT) and pooped. But I remember the first time I was surprised. I put our oldest (then only) baby, E, in her high chair when she was probably about seven months old and gave her a tippy cup with two handles. It was only partially full of milk. I showed her how to lift it to her mouth with her hands and she took great delight in drinking from it. Then she tipped it over. I said, "No, E, don't tip it." And she looked at me with a look I'd never seen before, lifted it from the tray and deliberately turned it over.
I was shocked. I couldn't believe she had deliberately done that.
She'd exercised her free will and done the opposite of what I'd told her.
Free will. I loved E in that moment as much as I loved her the moment before. Of course. You'd find me a very poor mother if that wasn't the case, wouldn't you?
But somehow we don't quite get this about God. Or at least not completely. He gave us free will. He would be a poor God if He hadn't, if He'd only made humans who loved Him automatically, who obeyed at every turn. Or who believed without questioning. And He's anything but a poor God. Our free will is the most In-His-Image thing about us, perhaps. He gave it to us in love, so that when we respond to His great gift of love, to salvation, it's a free response.
And we might do that. If you're reading this blog, most likely you have done that. However, most of you probably know people who haven't responded to God. You know people who don't believe in Him, who deny that Jesus is who He says He is. Or maybe you don't. I hope you do, however. I think your life would be very small if you don't.
I know many who don't believe in Him. I know Buddhists and agnostics and Hindus and atheists and Muslims and all sorts between. I know people who think the historical Jesus was someone to be admired but not a deity, and I know people who don't think about God at all, until they are within inches of their own death.
And you know what? God not only lets them have the free will to believe all these things, He loves them. HE LOVES THEM. They don't believe in Him; yet He believes in them.
So if this is true, what should MY response be? Should it be to throw stones and only be in fellowship with those exactly like myself? Or should it be to love as He loves?
That's rhetorical, of course.
Of course I'm in relationship with a variety of people. In my own house there's one who doesn't believe in Him. I would no more cast him out than turn my back on my own child (see what I did there?). I love him, you see. And I long to see him grow and change and become who I believe he's meant to be. And until then (and yes, even if he doesn't):
CS Lewis says, "Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having...The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures 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. And for that they must be free." ----from Mere Christianity