Couldn’t God have created us all to automatically love Him? Why did sin ever come into existence? Why free will in the first place? If God knew the consequences of sin, couldn’t God have “rigged” things so that no one would rebel against Him? Wouldn’t that have been the way to prevent all the suffering humankind has experienced?
Those theological questions have engaged thinkers for centuries. And there is certainly much about “the mystery of iniquity” that we won’t fully understand until eternity. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
But considering the nature of God, those creatures He made to be part of His family would have to be created with free will. Love requires it.
God is Love
We know that God is love. (1 John 4:8) It’s His very nature. Love is not something God does. It’s not an emotion He feels, or one among many characteristics He has. Love is God’s very nature. It’s who He is. He cannot be or act inconsistent with His nature.
And when God created humankind “in his own image” it was out of His nature of love. (Genesis 1:27) Being made in the image of God means, at its core, that we are made for love – to experience it, express it, live from it in every way.
Jesus made this clear. When asked about the most important commandment He said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Love God. Love others. We were meant for love.
Love is especially how we are to live in the new family of Jesus. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Love Requires Free Will
Consider what we know about human relationships. Think of your best friend. Your husband or wife. Your children. Is there love there? Are you feeling love from them? Are you giving love to them? For example, when sex is at its best, we call it making love.
Lots of things can be commanded, forced, manipulated. Exert enough power and you can get obedience. You can control behavior. You might imagine how, with appropriate manipulation, you can control attitude. And you might be able to even force worship.
But you cannot force love.
How many husbands and wives have wanted to force love, and discovered it’s impossible. How many parents have been hurt when growing children don’t love them. Unrequited love is one of the most painful of experiences. Even an animal’s love, to the degree it is love, must be won, not forced.
If you’re married, you don’t just want your spouse to allow you to have sex; you want him/her to want you. To love you.
Love can’t be forced or commanded. Love is only love because it comes from a heart that is free to love or not love. For whatever else it may be, love that is not freely given is not love.
Love requires free will.
Free Will and Loving God
So because God is love, He desires a family who love Him in return. And as a result, the only way He could create humankind was with free will.
God could have chosen to create beings who are obedient to Him, who worshiped Him. And He did. The angels do. If God’s kingdom were one of power or territory, then free will would be unnecessary, even dangerous. But that would not be a kingdom of love.
There is something God desires much more than your obedience, or even your worship. He desires your love.
He longs for your love with a desire stronger than any husband or wife desires the love of their spouse, stronger than any parent desires the love of their children.
And even God cannot control your love.
God’s nature of love and desire for a family who loves Him demanded that He create beings with free will, even at the risk of evil. Yes, free will is dangerous. And we are all experiencing the results of that.
Love Makes Things Right
But love also hates. It hates whatever harms the beloved.
God hates evil not because it offends some heavenly standard of holiness, but because evil harms those He loves. The killing of Jesus, the untold traumas of war, disease, violence, and abuse, the damage in our own human souls – that’s what evil does.
And that’s why God hates it. His love for you means He hates what harms you.
And that’s why He will not stop until everything is made right. Everything.
God’s nature means that everyone who wants to be in God’s kingdom of a New Heaven and a New Earth will be there. That’s what love does. If you would be happy in heaven, you will be there.
And it also means that those who do not want to be there won’t be there. Love honors the free choice of the beloved, even when painful.
There are more “deep weeds” this discussion could bring up – another time. I’m grateful God is the One making those decisions, not you or me.
Most of all, I’m grateful that God is love, that Jesus demonstrated to humans what that means, and that God’s nature of love guarantees that all will be well when this is over. I’m grateful that He loves me. And you!
And that you and I can freely choose to love Him in return.
I pray you make the choice to love.
Your Turn: Can you see how love can only exist where there is free will? Is that scary? Encouraging? Leave a comment below.
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- Whatever else it may be, love that is forced is not love. And God is love. He desires us to love Him in return. And that’s why free will is the only option. Tweet that.
Struggling to Experience God’s Love?
God designed us to grow in community. Connecting with others can help you know God’s love, and provide help in walking that out.
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