Let us Ramble: Free Will

What choices are you making today?

I grew up into my own faith during an age of culture wars within the church. Some churches were beginning to adopt more charismatic contemporary worship and other churches were holding to the music of ages past. Some churches fought over drumsets and other churches restored magnificent pipe organs.

I have survived those culture wars. I now live with the view that Psalm 100:1 is ultimately what matters. Is it a joyful noise to the Lord? Well, good enough! Do I prefer certain music? Of course, but I am not the only person in worship on any given Sunday.

I am living in the midst of an ongoing cultural clash between different schools of Biblical interpretation. This is exemplified by the current struggles over LGBTQIA theology, but also rises up to the challenge on discussions of spiritual gifts, spiritual practices, and even the limits of God’s grace. I am surviving this clash by keeping my eye on my ultimate goal. I run this race with Jesus.

Interestingly, the culture clash that I believe is most important to our current situation became “yesterday’s news” before I even truly entered ministry. I believe this reality is a great tragedy because one part of the challenge we face as a culture requires the presence of a vital piece of theology.

I believe that we absolutely need an orthodoxy and orthopraxy that supports the concept of free will. We have become a culture that is complacent when we face situations that seem beyond our control. We have become a people that allows fate to decide some of the most difficult choices in our lives. To riff on the excellent work of Dylan Thomas, we go gentle into our own goodnights. There is no rage against the dying of our light, our neighbor’s light, or any light. We passively accept fate like people in Thomas’ poem accepted the end of life.

Let me explain what I mean through examples. These examples apply to many people, but certainly not everyone. In many cases they refer to very few people.

People are living within marriages where things are going to shambles. A lot of people live in marriages where things are going awry. I talk with people about marriage more than almost any other subject. People often accept that there is nothing they can do because their partner won’t change. Free will means that we can change their own behavior, but we almost always focus on the behavior of another person as the root of our problems. People give up their ability to change their circumstances and often do not realize what they are doing when they surrender their own choices.

People live life with children that have challenges. They accept they can do nothing about the situation because their children do not do exactly what they want them to do in life. People can be happy to give their children choices but are unwilling to accept that their choices have consequences. By letting go of their own free will they have set themselves up for further aggravation and hopelessness.

People are living in communities that are filled with anger and hatred. Facebook is filled with posts from angry individuals who rage at each other. People assume that nothing can be done, but we each can choose to set an example by our own behavior. We can affect our community through living out lives of grace and compassion, but we allow ourselves to be fated to frustration.

People can be frustrated by the lives we live in the United States. Politicians represent the people and ultimately power rests with the people. King George learned this lesson the hard way. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, ultimately the weight of corruption falls on the people who grant power in the first place. We tend to not accept our responsibility as citizens. One of the highlights of being a part of the Kingdom of Heaven is that we do not have to be in charge. In our secular lives in the United States, the buck ultimately stops with the American people.

We can choose to select our own identity in this world. We can choose how our behavior will affect our future. We can choose who we will become in the future by our actions today. We can make the world great tomorrow through our use of love and grace today. We must only choose to grab the helm of life and turn the ship around.

There are no shoals that we must strike. There are no hurricanes that must lie in our path. There is an ocean of possibility if we but believe that we can trim our own sails, lift our own anchors, and shift our own rudder. We can make the world a better place if we trust in God, accept God’s power to transform our lives, and live into the image of Jesus.

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