Free Will and the Reason for Christmas
A friend commented on my fear of dogs recently. She thinks we shouldn’t be afraid of dogs, the most loyal and loving creatures, but rather of humans who can be cruel and brutal. I pondered her remark. Why did God create humans? Why didn’t He make us loving and obedient like dogs? Has He made a terrible mistake?
God is Love
We know God is love. Love is never an abstract concept. Love longs to love and to be loved. God created heaven and earth, and they are marvelous. But they cannot love Him and fellowship with Him. He made human beings in His image and likeness who can love Him and fellowship with Him.
God could have made us amazing architects like birds who can build the most intricate nests without learning the trade. He could have given us super strength to carry weights a hundred times heavier than ourselves like ants. He could have made us loving and lovable like dogs. He could have put any kind of magnificent traits in us.
But by the very nature of love, it must be voluntary and cannot be coerced. Neither can it be manipulated. Love is love only when the option “not to love” is also available. Thus, in His sovereignty, God withholds His omnipotent power and grants us free will so that we can choose either to love Him or reject Him. Consequently, free will is granted with the intention that we be given the opportunity to love Him in the truest sense.
In the Hebrew Scripture, God’s relationship with Israel is often depicted as a romantic love. God loves Israel with unquenchable thirst, and He yearns for Israel to love Him back with unwavering fidelity and faith. That fidelity and faith require that we be given free will. Otherwise, God’s demands on Israel would have been absurd, making no sense.
God’s Grand Purpose
Therefore, free will first and foremost demonstrates God’s grand purpose in creating humans. He loves us passionately and longs for us to love Him back. For that reason I think the expression, “It’s not about you; it’s all about God,” seems to miss a crucial point. I understand its intent: to combat our narcissistic self-centeredness that fails terribly to render God His due. I think this expression may unwittingly downplay our role in our relationship with God, however. We matter greatly in it. This position falls short: It fails to recognize that loving relationships are always reciprocal. God’s love towards us and our love of Him are the two indispensable components in the relationship.
God must have wanted so much for us to love Him that He deemed the risk of giving us free will to be worth taking, even though it could go wrong — which it did. It not only enabled us to love voluntarily out of our own will, but also gave us power to do wrong. Genesis 3 illustrates this well.
A Necessary Consequence
Like Adam, we all choose to disobey God’s command and broke the relationship. Hell is the necessary consequence of justice for evildoers. We have broken the relationship, and to this day our inclination is to choose to do things against God. All of us have earned a place in Hell — the final breakup and separation of the relationship. Even when we are on our way to Hell, we still have to admit that God is loving, just and righteous. He indeed loves us, but we, the unrighteous ones, do not live up to His standards and fail to maintain the relationship.
The Birth of Jesus
Our story could have ended here, but we matter too much to God, albeit undeservedly. Through the birth of Jesus, the infinite and righteous God entered into our finite and unrighteous world to mend the broken relationship. That alone is a tremendous sacrifice on His part and should cause our hearts to shiver.
Without free will, Christmas would have been unnecessary. If God had given us the ability only to obey and love Him like dogs, there would not have been the need to mend the broken relationship. On the other hand, if God had made us do vil, He would be the ultimate cause of all evil. He would be responsible for all the horrible things that have happened in the world. And the birth of Jesus would have been merely His act of patching up the problems He had been responsible for.
By no means! Christmas is the solution to the consequences of the free will that He granted us out of love in the first place!
As a general rule, the powerless sacrifice for the powerful, and the unrighteous for the righteous. We feel awe at the exceptions. They cause us to cry and our hearts to tremble with joy. Christmas tells us that the righteous and all-powerful God made a stunning sacrifice for the unrighteous and sinful humans because He is crazy about us and hates to let us go. His love for us is tenacious and enduring!
Will You Choose to Love This Christmas Child?
Today, two thousand years later, God is still waiting for us to respond to His love, longing for us to love Him back. We still have power to either love Him or reject Him. Do you know how much God longs for your love? Will you choose to love this Christmas child?
Chenyuan Snider was raised in Communist China and majored in Chinese language and literature in college. After immigrating to the U.S. and having studied at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School, she became a professor and taught at Christian colleges and seminary. After March of this year, she sensed God was leading her to use her unique voice to provide a warning about various kinds of Marxist influences in our society. She lives in northern California with her husband and has two grown children.