"The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king.'" 1 Samuel 8
I don't think I ever recall God forcing the people of Israel to do things His way. He's certainly punished them for disobeying Him, but He lets them have their head. When their sin gets them into a bad enough mess that they come crying to Him for salvation, He saves them and reminds them of His way. They keep it briefly, but now that life is okay again, they drift away again.
This willingness to let us exercise our free will is also the focus of the end of the first chapter of Romans:
"Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves...
For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions...
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done..." Romans 1:24, 26, 28
He lets us screw ourselves...but He never gives up on us entirely. It's this wonderful combination of free will and guided free will, which creeps closer to predestination, to being able to look back and see how God knew what He was doing the whole time, and that He achieved His goals of redeeming and healing us, growing us to be more mature, more like Himself.
And I wonder...how does this relate to modern-day conflicts in our society?
dasubergeek thinks of himself as a Libertarian Christian, and if I had to categorize myself, I'd probably put myself in the same bin. Is this an honest and consistent point-of-view? The philosophy boils down to: "I disagree with abortion and homosexuality (for example), but I'm not going to try to force you to stop participating in either of those things, or devalue you as a human being because you support them." How does this point-of-view conflict with Jesus's description of us as "lights" and "salt" in the world? Are we not being effective salt if we don't work to stop people from participating in abortion and homosexuality? If we don't push for legislation to make our beliefs law, are we "wimping out" as Christians in today's society? Is it appropriate to apply "do everything that the people request of you" to these situations?
It is good to remember that even if our society never agrees to make the Christian beliefs on these issues law, it doesn't change the fact that they already are law and always have been. God enforces His own laws; they're sewn into the fabric of existence, even if we can achieve of level of determined ignorance of them. Explaining why we believe that God's laws already are a reality and why it's foolish to pretend that we can create laws that oppose them is, perhaps, the only sure thing here. In the end, God does let people have their head. The reality of those who participate in abortion and homosexuality cannot be avoided. They exist, they live, they experience emotions and ideals and hopes and dreams and pain and happiness, just like everyone else. It rains on both the just and unjust.
Should we quiet our voices? No! We're supposed to shine and keep the goodness preserved. But if we fail to make our beliefs law, should we be bitter, angry, and vindictive? Should we keeping trying to force the issue? Is God's message to Samuel His message to us today? "Let them have their kings and idols. It is Me they have rejected, not you. Don't get offended. Honor Me."
I'm still processing. A pro-choice friend recently told me about her views when I asked her to explain her position to me, without interruption by me. Her view on abortion was that in many cases, it is the "lesser of the evils", but it's still an evil that she would never feel comfortable doing herself, which totally surprised me. For her, the issue wasn't the polar opposite of the pro-life adherents' views. She said that the pro-lifers reduce the entire issue to the murder of the fetus, but that the issue was much bigger, relating to women's health, safety, and enslavement, and to the quality of life possible for the unwanted children.
I digested that for several days, contemplating what it would mean for me to find myself in agreement with her position, what assumptions of right and wrong it would challenge in me, if any. Was the issue really a lot more gray than the black-and-white of the pro-life perspective? If the issue was a lot more gray, then what IS the correct stance to take on it?
I was lying in bed last Saturday morning, thinking, praying, and generally contemplating the ceiling while jcobleigh still slept beside me. I asked God what He thought of whole thing. Our conversation boiled down to: "First, in cases where the mother's life is threatened, it is the choice of the mother first, and of her caregivers second, whether the baby should be aborted. I will not force a frightened woman to give up her life for her unborn child, though it does speak of a strength of character if she is willing to.
"Regarding your friend's views, from a certain perspective, she's right. It is an imperfect world and a brief pain (i.e. the loss of an unborn child) looks better than a lifetime of pain (i.e. the birth and subsequent life of an unwanted child). In the world, as it is, the lifetime of pain cannot be denied or sugar-coated or glossed over."
Then He drew a bottom line: "The underlying weakness in that argument is that it assumes that pain reduces the value of a life to nothing, and that I am powerless to bring a lifetime of good out of such a situation. The position writes Me off and writes the suffering people off, as well. I am not a God of devaluing people...and at the core of the issue IS the death of the unborn child. Whether it is viewed as a "murder" or as a "mercy killing" is irrelevant.
"It is easy to look at someone who is physically and/or mentally disabled or scarred and think that they are worth less than a "whole" person, that it would have been better if they never had to live and suffer so much. I don't see them that way, and you should not either. At the same time, you cannot slap a simple "thou shalt not kill thy unborn child" on someone and walk away pretending that the situation is solved. Creating legislation against abortion is viewed as the solution by many, but at best it is a shortsighted band-aid on a gaping wound. When a woman makes the difficult decision to abort her unborn child, she lives with that haunt for the rest of her life, whether she admits to it or not. It is what life is, what I have made it, and it will not be avoided. At best, human legislation can only be an echo of Me.
"You know the wound is gaping, that it is a societal sickness in relationships, in service to fellow man, and in the daily practice of the love and care that I am. You can see that it is far beyond the power of just you to change. The next realization should not be despair, Rachel.
"I have called some people to work directly with mothers who are contemplating abortion, and the people in those women's lives. You, I ask that you pray for the women and those who work with them. To contribute your time and resources to caring for and encouraging them whenever the opportunity presents itself. To not be ashamed of your acknowledgement of Me if these topics come up in discussion; don't hedge or hide, but don't deliver a sermon, either. Just listen to Me and be meek ("strength--under control" :), and value people as they are, as I see them. If you come into contact with work being done to help out in the lives of unwanted or underprivileged children, pray, and give your time and resources as I lead you. Do not be discouraged, and do not try to force others to be the way you think they ought to be.
"Live, My love. Pray for those who are trying to make righteous laws, not only that righteous laws would be enacted (leave the final decision on whether that happens up to Me), but if those laws that they are fighting for are not enacted, that they will still love their opponents with My love. No matter what."