Leading Question: Is the power of choice a gift of God, but a gift with some frightening overtones?
Those who believe that it is God who chooses who will be saved, never worry about the hazards involved in the power of choice. God has settled their fate and they are secure in his hands. For most of us, freedom is something we crave. But the consequences of having freedom are significant.
1. Is good health something we can choose? In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve faced a sobering threat in connection with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Are our choices to live a healthy life like the choices faced by Adam and Eve? In their case, it was a simple command of God that they could obey or ignore (Gen 2:16-17; Gen 3:1-13). Are our health questions at all like that? Can humans respond to the good without some element of threat?
2. To what extent is the specter of guilt an effective motivator for healthful living? In the Garden, transgression led to both fear and a sense of guilt, neither of which are likely to be considered desirable by most people. But to what extent is the fear of guilt feelings and the fear of fear itself a means of keeping us within the bounds of good behavior?
3. Does God judge us for what we do not know? Abraham is celebrated as the father of the faithful and as a man who made significant choices for God. But in at least one instance, we are inclined to be critical of Abraham for a “sin” which he did not consider a “sin” by him, namely, taking Hagar as a second wife (cf. Gen 16; Gen 21:9-14). Ellen White”s comment is revealing here:
Polygamy had become so widespread that it had ceased to be regarded as a sin, but it was no less a violation of the law of God, and was fatal to the sacredness and peace of the family relation. Abraham”s marriage with Hagar resulted in evil, not only to his own household, but to future generations. â€“ Patriarchs and Prophets, 145
The tragic consequences are obvious. But how did God look on Abraham”s sin? Do Jesus” hard words in Luke 12:47-48 apply here? “That servant who knows his master”s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.” Are the disastrous consequences of sin done in ignorance sufficient punishment? Is eternal life not affected by sins done in ignorance?
4. How strong is the motivation provided by the knowledge that what we do will affect our children after us (Deut 30:10-19)? Knowing that our acts will affect our posterity could be viewed as a positive motivator or as a negative one. Are both equally effective?
5. When the Psalmist declares that the Lord is aware that “This one is born there” (Psalms 87:5-6), is he suggesting that the Lord makes allowance for our unhappy circumstances and does not hold them against us? As soon as one makes allowance for circumstances, won”t some people take advantage of that to relax into carelessness? But would an unbending rigidity be more effective in making us the people we would want to be?
6. Is it helpful to focus on the fruit of the Spirit as a means of motivating us toward right living? “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23, NRSV). To what extent can our failure to live healthful lives, or our over-eagerness to be healthful, detract from the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives? Do we need to return to a sense of gratitude for all that God has done for us as a means of motivating ourselves to do the things that are truly important?