On the Mystery of Free Will

The following originally appeared as the Commentary on the March 5th entry in Consuming Fire, the daily devotional version of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.

The concept that man has free will is one of the most challenging mysteries of God to explain to both believers and non-believers.  For the believer, this challenge is understanding and accepting that conforming our will to His will for us is not an encumbrance to be borne, it is a freedom to be cherished.  His will is always the best for us.  However, because we are human, and even though we have been forgiven for our sins when we confess Christ as Lord and Savior, we still sin and those sins include wanting to be god, and envying others.  We cling tenaciously to being in control, and we often want more than He knows is best for us.  We are also powerfully influenced by the world in which we live.  Romans 12:2 tell us “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If we are honest, we don’t view God’s will as freedom; we view it as a limitation on our lives.  While we reluctantly accept it, we are actually tormented by it, and we find ourselves in constant battle with His will.  Very importantly, because we do not truly understand free will and do not accept with abandon that we are most free when we conform our will to His will, we are ineffective in explaining the concept to non-believers.

For many non-believers, the mystery of free will is one of the bases for their non-belief.  The non-believer questions why a God, purported to be a loving God, would allow the horrible things that have happened throughout the course of history, some of which are up close and personal to them.  The non-believer struggles with understanding and accepting that God has not chosen to control every event, that He lets the choices of one person impact the lives of others, sometimes in very awful ways.  They are also powerfully influenced by the world in which they live and the siren song that that there is no right and wrong and that life should be lived with no encumbrances.  Freedom to them is being able to choose whatever they want, to have free will without consequences, intended or unintended.