Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things. We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants. So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants. Right?
But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants. He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do. He wants us to love one another, and that is rare. He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t. This is the Almighty God! Why doesn’t He get what He wants?
Because of love.
Listen to God’s own description of love:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)
Love “does not seek its own.” That means it does not demand its own way. Love allows the other person to be a real person. Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity. Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys. Love lets others be who they are.
And God loves us. He loves all people.
So God doesn’t force anyone. From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever. They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him. But they were free. They were intelligent and able to make moral choices. He allowed them to grow and create and live.
And, when the time came, they chose. They chose something God did not want. He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it. We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.
They did it their way.
Because they were free.
Because He loved them.
He let them go because they wanted to go. He warned them. He grieved when they did it. But He knew they would. Because they were free.
And they lost so much. He knew they would and He told them they would. But He didn’t stop them. He already had a plan in place. Because He loved them.
God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one. Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way. They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone. He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.
So He set in motion an amazing plan.