Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Transactional Life

Before I became a Christian I lived a transactional life.

A transactional life is when, if someone is “mean” to us, then we return the favor and are “mean” back.

If we are snubbed, we snub that person back.

If our spouse makes a purchase, we justify going and making a purchase.

If our spouse spends a Saturday away from home having fun, we quickly arrange a solo day for ourselves.

If our child sees their sibling get something, that child also then expects to get something.

If our friend brings the teacher an apple, we bring the teacher an apple (or try to best the friend by bringing an apple pie!)

And what underlies the transaction is “my right to myself.”


“That person snubbed me so I have a right to snub back.”

“My spouse spent money so I have a right to spend money too.”

“My sibling got to go to a sleepover, so I have a right to go to a sleepover too.”

It starts in childhood and, for many folks, continues until the day they die.

Resentment and self-righteousness, rooted in the heart, are the building blocks of a transactional modus operandi.

See, resentment can never be content with someone else’s contentment.

So if we find ourselves resenting someone else’s good fortune, or their receipt of something positive which they are entirely deserving of, then self-righteousness isn’t far behind. Because what resentment is screaming is this:

“How come I didn’t get the promotion?”

“How come I can’t go and buy things the way so and so does?”

“How come I can’t have the experiences other people have?

“How come I am not valued?”

Resentment doesn’t just rise up at the success of others, it also rushes in when we perceive, rightly or not, that we have been wronged or when we take offense.

“How come I am at the receiving end of this person’s actions?”

“How come I am limited, short-changed, backstabbed, undermined, misunderstood, passed over and thrown under the bus?”

Resentment then keeps score. It never forgives. It wants to retaliate.

Ironically, while scheming how to retaliate it is in fact already retaliating. Because it cannot bridge the distance between “my rights” and “your rights” in order to get to a place of understanding and right perspective. And this only breeds ill will, which itself is retaliation.

Trying to talk to someone bound up in their “rights” is nearly impossible.

They will stubbornly come back to “I” and how “I” feel. They have not developed the ability to see from another’s perspective.

And believe me, it isn’t a matter of how educated a person is. I have observed highly-certified people—trained in psychology, critical thinking and philosophy—ride the resentment train all the way to the end of the line.

And that’s because resentment is not a matter of the mind, it is a habit of the heart.

And until our hearts undergo a renaissance, we will always see the world as one-dimensional: the dimension of “me.” Thus, we will always live within the dimension of transactions.

Forgive me for a moment for taking a brief aside here to perhaps sound old and curmudgeony when I suggest that the doors to ever leaving that dimension are quickly closing due to Facebook, the very premise of which is “the perspective of me.”

Facebook in particular feeds the transactional life because the transactional life looks at everything from an exceedingly superficial level—what people are doing—and specifically, what they are doing in relation to me

So what people look and act like, where and how they live and the amount of money and success they’ve attained are all measured against what I look and act like, where and how I live, and my amount of success and money. Everything in life is interpreted in relation to me.

In a nutshell, the transactional life is a constant volley back and forth between what another person does, says or is and my kickback to that.

So while it may appear that it is only “all about me,” in actuality, we’ve made it “all about the other person from the perspective of me.”

This is the bondage of self. And, I might add, why we will never have peace on earth.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (NASB); and “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). 

If loving our neighbor as our self is the second most important command after loving God (Matthew 22:39), then “love” clearly is not love if it is transactional.

The end of transactional living and loving can only come with Christ.

How do we know this?

“Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and his disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the Synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at Him.” Mark 6:1-3.

What is the transaction here?

In the minds of the self-obsessed locals, Jesus has one-upped them: “'Where did He get these not this the carpenter'” that we have known all of our lives? How dare He come in here thinking He is so wise and able to do miracles!!"

Do you see their resentment, their self-righteousness?

And now for the transaction:

“You dare to come to us like this. We will react to this business of yours by becoming offended!” Because, in the hearts of the locals, one offense deserves another, and Jesus had offended. So they attempted to offend Him back by rejecting Him entirely (although, since this is Jesus, Jesus wasn’t offended and Jesus did not reject them in return). 

Why wasn’t Jesus offended?

Let’s find out:

“Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.’ And He could do no miracles there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief” (v. 4-6)

Isn’t that terrific? Jesus wasn’t offended by their rejection of Him because:

First of all, He understood the other people: He saw their context; He was able to be other-centric!


Second of all, He wondered! That is truly magnificent. He “wondered at their unbelief.”

I don’t know about you, but my first response would not be to thoughtfully place my finger on my chin and, gazing off into space, ponder a group of people’s outright visible taking offense at me! But that is what Jesus did.

And who, in the end, loses in this man-forced “transaction”?  (and I use quotes around that word because obviously Jesus did not complete the transaction because He Himself did not become offended).

The losers here are the people whose offense caused Jesus to “do no miracles there” except to heal a few sick people (who obviously had not taken offense at Him).

Jesus was not being transactional in his not doing many miracles there. He couldn’t do much there because the people would not let Him.

You can’t be spiritually healed if you do not want to be. We all know the feeling of finally leaving someone to them self if they don’t want us in their lives (again, keeping the door open, as Jesus Himself did, so that when and if they ever become willing, they will be lovingly received).

It was because of the condition of their hearts that Christ could not get through to the people. And if Christ, who is love itself, is not allowed to break through transactional thinking, nothing and nobody can.

It was a Christian brother who first pointed out the concept of transactional living to me. And as I tested this concept against Scripture, Christ showed me how accurate this brother was.

The more I began to see transactions going on all around me, the more I also saw Jesus Himself combating it in His own teaching.

Without Christ’s Spirit in us, we cannot expect to see this clearly. Without Christ’s Spirit in us we cannot expect our hearts to be cleansed. Without Christ, who Himself is love, we cannot come close to loving rightly and unselfishly and free of keeping score.

Without the regeneration of our very being, we cannot generate love and goodwill, because love and goodwill cannot flow from an impure heart; a heart polluted by keeping accounts.

Without Christ, all is self, and when all is self, life at its very core will always be transactional.

copyright Barb Harwood

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Our Thought-Life Reveals Our Priorities

The following quote is by Erwin Raphael McManus, from his book, Wide Awake:

"There are dreams we try to recruit God into, and frankly I think he looks at us and says, Not on your life. God is not going to invest himself in a dream fueled by greed, arrogance, self-indulgence, and self-centeredness. Jesus spent much of his influence trying to get those who would listen to change what they cared about. Because what you care about is what you dream about." Erwin Raphael McManus

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"I Will Honor Christmas in my Heart, and Try to Keep it All the Year"

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
Ebenezer Scrooge, waking up on Christmas morning a converted man, in the story A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

One day last week, I took Charles Dickens' book, The Life of Our Lord: Written for his children During the Years 1846 to 1849, to a coffee shop, ordered a Café au lait, and read the entire little gem in about an hour's sitting. Dickens, much to many people’s surprise, was a Christian, and his doctrine, fairly spot-on.

Therefore, it’s no mystery as to the Christian theme running through A Christmas Carol and Dickens’ other works.

The context of the above Dickens quote within his story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life is this:

It is spoken from the lips of a re-born man—Scrooge—who has a heart-conversion after experiencing a contrite and broken spirit.

He now not only comprehends Christmas, but desires Christmas.

And this sudden illumination of the meaning of Christmas for Scrooge is not merely that of a holiday adorned with plum pudding!

No. This new meaning of Christmas is the Christmas of the heart which becomes the Spirit-change of the heart, akin to the circumcision of the heart spoken of in Romans 2:29.

Scrooge’s words are spoken post-regeneration, after repentance of the heart and mind.

And lo and behold, when this happens, Scrooge laughs. His joy overwhelms. He wakes up from prison a free man.

Many of us can relate. We can also relate to Scrooge’s ensuing awkwardness in re-establishing his relationship with his nephew Fred, his sister’s son, whom he has ill-treated throughout many years.

And what, we are curious to observe, will Fred’s reaction be to his newly commutated Uncle Scrooge?

Fred, in spite of being at the receiving end of his Uncle Scrooge’s bitterness for many years, never shut the door to his uncle, so that when the time came when God worked out, finally, Scrooge’s demons, Fred lovingly received his Uncle.

Fred could have refused and self-righteously chosen to live off of past offenses. In other words, he could have chosen to "keep account of" everything his uncle did to hurt him. 

But he didn’t. Instead, he received Scrooge’s personal invitation to go forth in a redeemed relationship.

Fred, though clearly cognizant of Scrooge’s affronts, always understood what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow elucidated so well:

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

This is Scrooge.

And Fred was the only person who could discern it.

In my opinion, Fred is the most Christ-like figure in A Christmas Carol. If we are looking at how to “keep Christmas” in accordance with Jesus—our Lord for whom we mark the day, Christmas—we have no better every-day example than Fred, the nephew.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Fred, in his response to, and even conversation about, his brooding and self-absorbed uncle, lives out this love. He will not join his friends and family in verbally disparaging his uncle, and that leads me to believe that Fred didn’t disparage his uncle in his heart, either.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45b).

We, as Scrooge, may not have even one Fred in our life to receive us. We go forth in the love and grace of Christ anyway. 

We go forth regardless of whether or not others take a chance on our ongoing regeneration in Christ. We accept that we have caused and may continue to cause, much confusion, if not consternation, among friends and family as we internally change from one person into another from year to year. We continue to run the race.

And we, as the nephew Fred, receive in Godly love those who are running the race too, and keep the door open to those who have not yet begun to run. We don't force them through the door, we wait for them to walk through it. 

And finally, we take to heart the admonition to: 

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:14-18)

and soberly consider the clarity of the Lord's will:

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

It is when we are trapped inside of our own Scrooge that we find Micah 6:8 impossible. 

It is when we are freed that we ultimately discover God's love for us and for others. 

And though at first, and sometimes still, confusing to apply, we make the attempt.

And when we begin the attempt and are received by the "Freds" of the world, it is then we experience what God-derived love coming out of a humanbeing looks like. 

And it is when we, in turn, humbly sow Godly love throughout our time on earth, that Christmas is kept. 

copyright Barb Harwood

“Not that I already have obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:12-16

Friday, December 22, 2017

N. T. Wright on Jesus Coming to Meet Us

In the following quote, N. T. Wright uses the metaphor of singing in a choir--going from out of tune to in-tune, to illustrate the regeneration of the human heart and thus, behavior, once a person has met Christ:

     “God loves us as we are, as he finds us, which is (more or less) messy, muddy, and singing out of tune. Even when we’ve tried to be good, we have often only made matters worse, adding (short-lived) pride to our other failures. And the never-ending wonder at the heart of genuine Christian living is that God has come to meet us right there, in our confusion of pride and fear, of mess and muddle and downright rebellion and sin.
     That’s the point of the Christian gospel, the good news: ‘This is how much God loved the world—that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, so that anyone who believes in him will not die, but will have life, the life of the age to come.’ That summary, in one of the most famous verses in the New Testament (John 3.16), says it all. God’s love comes to us where we are in Jesus Christ, and all we have to do is accept it. But when we accept it—when we welcome the new choir director into our ragged and out-of-tune moral singing—we find a new desire to read the music better, to understand what it’s all about, to sense the harmonies, to feel the shape of the melody, to get the breathing and voice production right...and, bit by bit, to sing in tune.
     Out of our desire to become better musicians, we begin to practice and to learn the habits of how to sing; to acquire the character not only of good individual singers but of a good choir; and so to take our place within the ongoing story of music—specifically, church music, the tradition going back to Bach and Handel and beyond. There is the sequence: grace, which meets us where we are but is not content to let us remain where we are, followed by direction and guidance to enable us to acquire the right habits to replace the wrong ones.” N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, pages 62-63

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Is "The Light" Innate in Us?

The answer to this question, in spite of countless cinematic masterpieces, evocative song lyrics, pithy platitudes, our own high regard for ourselves, and endless public school positive affirmations that “the light” does indeed originate in us, is “No.”

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

From Finding Dory to the Star Wars franchise, from children’s books to self-help books, from New Ageism to Atheism, the sad reality is that “the light,” humanly translated into the language of self-esteem and “peace on earth,” has, is and always will be, darkness.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD almighty
will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12

Notice that the above verses state that Jesus is the light, who has come into a dark world. We can enter into His light and no longer walk in darkness.

It follows that if Jesus came into a dark world, and people still choose to stay in that dark world, that He did not turn the dark world into light. The dark world still exists. Jesus exists within that darkness. The only light available in that darkness—in that dark world—is the light of Christ.

It also follows that those who choose Him, and therefore, His light—the only light that brings people out of darkness—must continue to exist upon that dark world, only now to live in that world within the light of Christ.

I make this point because many non-believers mistakenly conclude that Christianity promotes a “never suffer again” proposition. And so people who make a profession of faith often disown that profession when the “never suffer again” bubble pops.

What they didn’t understand is that though we are saved in Christ and live in His light, we do it while still materially living in a fallen world.

How do we know this? From the prayer of Jesus Himself in John 17:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of this world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:17-21

The glory of God, then—the peace on earth, good will toward men; the loving others as our selves—is this:

Upon this dark world Jesus has come, to bring good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of His—the Lord’s—favor (Isaiah 61; Luke 4:18-19).

Who are the poor? All of us because we all live in the poverty of darkness.

Who are the captives? All of us because we all live captive to the darkness.

Who is blind? All of us because the god of this age has blinded us.

Who are the oppressed? All of us because we all live in the oppression of darkness.

What is the year of God’s favor? The light of Christ entering into that darkness and rescuing us from it: not from the world, but from the darkness that is the world, and the darkness that is us without the light of Christ.

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Here is the joy and glory of Christmas, the coming of the light of Christ:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5:8-14

These words are spoken to the physically alive, who must, as Jesus clearly and compassionately taught Nicodemus, die and be born again in the Spirit of Christ (John 3).

The idea of a secular, “inner light,” as beautifully and artistically presented as that may be from a humanistic perspective, is only a façade; a sad joke played on a people who so want to convince themselves that they, in their own humanly-bred, self-aggrandized, inner-striving for independence, can be their own light. A people who, through a fairy tale of their own imagining, can pretend that if they just “believe in themselves,” then everything will be all right.

This is no light. It is a counterfeit.

“I am the light of the world,” says Jesus. 

Find Christ and we find the Light.

Friday, December 15, 2017

How I Understand Free Will defines free will as “free and independent choice. Voluntary decision.”

So how does that mesh with a God who is in control, omniscient, and unchanging?

The best way I’ve come to understand it is that since we are created by God, and God gave us brains, then God created us to be discerning individuals. Therefore, we have been given the ability to discern; to make choices when confronted with various options.

The best example I’ve come across to explain this was provided by my husband:

“A child has the choice between apple and cherry pie. The parent knows that the child loves apple pie and will choose the apple pie. The parent does not force the child to choose the apple pie. It is freely available to the child, as is the cherry pie. The child chooses the apple pie, just as the parent knew they would."

God knows the actions and outcomes of everything and everyone. Nothing surprises Him. That doesn’t mean he is forcing our hand.

God knows our hearts at every moment and He desires us to make the choice that is best for us, and of course, He knows what that best choice is. But He also knows what we ultimately will choose.

From a Christian perspective, the word “independent” in the dictionary definition deserves a caveat: although we have fee will, we are dependent upon God in the sense that He is the one who equipped us with free will.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

We cannot act “independently” of God in the sense that we cannot act independently of His enabling us to have willpower in the first place!

Just like we cannot walk, talk, eat or even be alive without God equipping us with legs, mouth, tongue, teeth and breath, we cannot will ourselves to do anything without first being gifted with the thing called a will.

However, where we walk, how we talk, what, where, when and how we eat, and the manner in which we choose to live are choices God has freely given us to will for ourselves: the free will we are now discussing. 

We use the act of the will (a noun) which He gave us to make our own choices freely; God does not choose for us how to use our will.

I realize this is a very condensed, and perhaps simplistic, summation. However, I also know that the outright rejection of God by many people stems from an inability to find simpatico between a Sovereign God and free will.

I certainly do not claim to rightly explain or fully enumerate free will (please continue to explore free will on your own and do not merely take my word for it. Again, this is where I have landed thus far in my studies of the Scriptures. Use it as a launch pad for your own inquiry).

I have come to this current understanding within the overarching exclamation of Paul who cried out:

“Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33

With that, I continue now to look at how the will—the ability to will—that is given to us by God, is able to work itself out.

I believe the main way is through people coming to realizations themselves.

That’s why I believe Jesus asked so many questions.

That’s why I believe God sent Jesus down to earth as a baby.

That’s why I believe that suffering, although no one wants to go through it, can result in an ultimately stronger position, namely, freedom in Christ.

If we look in Scripture where it is noted that entire households were saved and where many who heard and accepted the message believed and were baptized, it isn’t because Jesus commanded or threatened them, or even that He debated and argued with them.

It was because He, or one of His apostles, patiently and painstakingly stayed the course in making simple statements and observations, regardless of the reactions of the crowd or individual.

He helped these statements and observations along with miracles, using them to aid people in coming to their own realization that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

That is also why I believe Jesus spoke in parables: He wanted people to think and, in a sense, work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12) by seeing and comprehending the source of salvation with their own hearts and minds, not under compulsion but willingly and of their own volition.

Those who were open (humble and contrite) to the Spirit of Christ pursued the Spirit of Christ—Christ Himself—by listening with an open (childlike) mind and then settled their minds on the absolute truth of the Man of Galilee. That He is, indeed, what He says He is: the Son of God who came to do God’s will in bringing the sheep into His sheepfold (John 6:37-40; John 10:1-18; Matthew 11:27).

It is also the reason, I conclude, that Jesus asks questions.

If any of us desires to improve our communication skills, we will find no better example of listening than Jesus, who, by asking questions of others, got His message across and impacted their lives, and thus, the world.

By asking a question, Jesus put the ball in the other person’s court.

When we are asked a question, it is now upon us to be the one making statements.

It is up to us to answer the question of how to go forward, to flesh out what has gone right or wrong in the past.

It is up to us to answer the question of how things are working—or not, for us.

It is up to us to make the determination of where we’ve been, where we are and where we hope to go.

We are finally put in a position to think through and perhaps challenge within ourselves our suppositions, biases, platitudes, ideologies, sound bites and agendas we’ve latched onto without sober consideration or logical perusal.

This is how we arrive at foundational conclusions instead of someone else’s, and the world’s, “shoulds.” 

This is how we finally address the question about the Lord God: by at long last being confronted with the Questioner who implores, but doesn’t commandeer, an answer.

This is how we determine whom or what this day we shall serve (Joshua 24:15).

Because, as folksinger Bob Dylan points out in his song Gotta Serve Somebody, if we think we are remaining independent by rejecting God, think again:

“Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

As for suffering and free will: if there is anything that really gets our attention, that brings us to the end of our self, it is suffering. Our state at the beginning of suffering and our state upon exiting it is a matter of free will.

Suffering gives us a choice: to acknowledge that we’re not in control of ourselves, others, the weather, bosses, corporations, nature, health and disease; or to continue to carry on, stubbornly convinced that if we simply try harder, then suffering, in all its manifestations, will never happen again.

Many people have found the Light of Life through suffering. In other words, they have come to the realization of the Light only through darkness.

Finally, I simply cannot reject free will in view of of Jesus’ call (not demand) to come to Him:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon You and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

And this, from Matthew 23:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling (v. 37, emphasis added).

And to seek Him:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8; also in Luke 11, with the added, “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”)

And then, just a few verses later,

“Enter through the narrow gate...and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13a; 14b)

Why would Jesus make these requests and statements, along with other calls in Scripture, if we are already pre-programmed by God to automatically act?

And how, then, could anyone refuse Jesus, if we are pre-programmed by God to believe in Him?

It’s like this: if my spouse is pre-programmed by God to love me, no matter what I do and regardless of my personality and uniqueness, will I be content with that?

Is that love?

If every relationship on earth is based on a pre-programmed love, then love is not love but a sterile, safe, benign existence within a fake community of automatons.

God Himself doesn’t want that kind of love from us:

The most important commandment, singled out by Christ Himself in Mark 12:30, is this:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (also found in Matthew 22:37-38).

That is passionate, not automated, love!

(Just a side note here about the word “commandment.” This is commanded—not commandeered---by Christ, and is left up to us whether we follow the command or not. And yes, although Jesus requires it, again, He does not coerce. A teacher commands that we take a test and pass it in order to graduate, but we are not forced. We can choose to either not take the exam, or to not study and thus do poorly on it and as a result, not graduate. All are choices we make in the face of a command).

God would not be a just God if He gave us no choice.

Even in His loving correction, as a parent corrects their child, can be found no dictatorship, since, just as a child can continue to misbehave or run away from home, we can rebel against God's correction and run away from Him.

God does everything in His power—which includes His power to work within His created plan of free will—to draw us to Himself.

But still some do not seek, do not ask, do not knock, do not find, do not receive and do not enter.

That is the power of God: the Authority to empower His creation to choose.

copyright Barb Harwood