What do you see? Blue skies? Green grass? Kittens playing? Children laughing?
Or do you see, hear and feel the hatred, violence, intolerance, cruelty, and greed that happens every day, everywhere, every way?
War. Poverty. Grief. Subjugation. Shootings. Defamation. Genocide. Abuses of every horrifying kind. Neglect. Bullying. Shaming.
Our news is filled with anger and outrage, and I hear the same question asked again and again.
“Why does God let such terrible things happen?” and “If God really exists, why doesn’t He stop all this?”
Freedom and Choice
If you tell someone to do something they don’t want to do, even if it’s good for them, the first thing they are likely going to do is list all the reasons they can think of not to do it. They are bound to mention the fact that they have the freedom to choose, and they would be right. Whether or not the choice is a good or bad one, right or wrong, beneficial or costly is rarely debated.
Though it probably should be.
If our choices are the foundation upon which our lives are built and shape our future, shouldn’t we logically want to make the best possible decisions? Why choose something that is bound to hurt us or cause problems? Why decide to do something that can destroy everything we’ve worked for when there are other, more beneficial options?
The Thou Shalt and Shalt Nots
Whether you follow the theology of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Judaism, or any other -ism, the Guiding Principals or Commandments are very similar. Don’t Kill. Don’t Lie, Cheat, or Steal. Respect your parents. Honor your spouse. Love your God.
And why not? Do any of these commandments or guiding principles create chaos or calamity, or are they beneficial? Will we be harmed if we abide by them or are we more likely to end up hurt in some way if we don’t?
These guidelines are a foundation, provided so we might live a safe and happy life. They are logical, wholesome, and even holistic.
Whether we choose to follow them is entirely our choice. A choice that can result in good or bad things happening. A choice that can and will shape our lives.
Free to Be or Not to Be
We all know the line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet ‘To be or not to be’ and it can be applied to many, many things, including freedom. When we have the freedom to choose, we are free to be whatever we choose to be: Happy, Sad, Thin, Heavy, Sociable, Reclusive, Funny, Boring….whatever.
Being free to choose also means we are free to live with the consequences of our choices. If I choose to eat hamburgers, fries, pizza and chocolate 7days a week, I will have to live with the consequences of those actions. Weight gain, diabetes, heart disease are all possible results of such a choice, which I am entirely free to make.
By contrast, I could also choose to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and practice meditation. These choices result in consequences too and, by making the choice, the result is mine as well. It’s the natural order of things, after all. Action, Reaction.
The Consequence of Choice
If you tell someone they have the freedom to choose, they will thank you. Or, at least, agree with you. However, if you tell them they will have to live with the consequences of their choices, they might not respond in such a positive way. No one wants to hear about consequences, regardless of the fact that they come with the package. Just like chocolate and calories, you cannot have one without the other.
We’ve made our choices. We’ve chosen to exclude God from our schools, our workplaces, our social interactions, our relationships, our government, and, in some cases, even from our churches! We’ve chosen the right to be offended by public prayer, the display of our guiding principles, the discussion of morality, and the mention of sin, Hell, or our need for redemption.
We’ve chosen to live our lives without God. It’s our choice and we’re free to make it, but we’ve forgotten the Newtonian Law of Nature. With each action, there is a reaction. With each choice, there is a consequence. If we want to live in a world that has no God, a world that chooses to scoff at logical, holistic, guiding principles and morality, then we, by extension, have also chosen the results of those actions.
It isn’t that God doesn’t care. God has simply stepped back and allowed us to see, hear, feel, taste, and live those consequences.
Because we are Free to Choose.
The Inarguable Conclusion: Love Does not Force
The beauty of God’s love is the simplicity of it. God loves. Always.
Whether we accept that love or walk away is entirely up to us.
We are free to choose…and…we are free to live with the consequences.