I have this friend (Ben Poust) who loves to argue. It’s never in a harsh or demeaning way, he just really enjoys not agreeing. He is probably the most intelligent person I know so I tend to get really nervous when talking with him…especially about religion. His Christian upbringing was much more intense than mine, so he knows a LOT more about theology than I do…which makes for even more intimidating conversation.
One time he said to me, “Ok, why would a loving God tell the people that He created ‘you have a choice to love me or not…but if you don’t chose to love me, you can’t be with me’. How is that loving?”
I don’t remember what my response was at the time, but pretty sure I wasn’t satisfied with it afterward. Why is it that it’s always a day later when we think of the “perfect thing” to say? In my case it took me over a year to come up with a semi-good answer to that question. I was spending some time with the Lord the other morning and something made me think of the conversation with Ben, and suddenly this really clear, cohesive, logical response started forming in my head.
Maybe it’s too late to share it with Ben, because that moment passed a long time ago (or maybe he’ll read my blog and fire back some dispute) but it’s worth sharing here for anyone who’s curious…
It’s like a parent telling their children not to do drugs. Now, I’m not a parent, but if I was, I wouldn’t be a good one if I didn’t warn them against drugs. I would say, “Kids, you can choose to do drugs or not to do drugs…but if you chose to do drugs, you won’t be able to love anyone but yourself”. By saying that I’m not saying that if they chose drugs I won’t love them anymore or I’ll disown them, I’m merely pointing out the nature of drugs/addiction. One cannot love anything outside themselves once they’ve conceded to drugs (or alcohol or whatever it is); that’s the nature of addiction; it’s the nature of drugs, they suck you in and you can’t get out until you leave them completely.
So it is with Christ. Him saying, “you can choose to love me, or this world, but if you choose the world you can’t have me; you can’t be with me”. It’s not a selfish thing He’s saying. It’s just the nature of sin and glory. If one chooses to deny His glory so they can be in the world (or live their life w/o any sort of accountability to God), they can’t be with Him because He is glory and glory cannot dwell in sin; it’s the essence of glory: the absence of sin. It’s not a matter of judgment, it’s not a conditional love, and it’s not a lack of ability on God’s part. It’s fact. It’s how good and evil work. It’s us with the lack of ability. We either love God and therefore become part of his Glory, or we don’t love God and force ourselves to be in His absence.