This time of year, we get inundated with articles, stories, music, TV shows ( and whatever else…) about the “meaning of Christmas”. To a Christian, it doesn’t matter what the source is, we know the meaning of Christmas. That’s not what I want to focus on here.
The older I’ve gotten, I’ve come to realize that God has actually given mankind (humankind, for the politically correct, rabid feminist crowd out there) two extraordinary gifts. The first, of course, is His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s the second gift however, which makes the first gift so unique. It’s the gift that enables a Christian to understand that he’s in a relationship instead of a religion. It’s the gift that enables a Christian to be a Christian in the first place.
Without it, Christianity is just another religion, just another set of written down do’s and don’ts that most people will find creative ways to avoid.
Free will, and having the ability to use that will to make a choice, is as central to Christianity as is Christ Himself. You have to choose to be a Christian, and each and every day thereafter, you will choose how closely you wish to follow Christ’s teachings.
We could get really theologically deep here and start discussing doctrinal issues as predestination and the belief of foreordination. That’s not the point, nor does it really pertain to the issue. You’d still have to make a choice to believe in such doctrines in the first place.
Looking at the earthly ministry of Christ, there is example after example of how He offered the gift of choice, of free will, to those He encountered.
Perhaps one of the best examples is that of the rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:16-23, with a corresponding reference in Luke 18:23. The young ruler in question was offered a chance to follow Christ as a disciple, but he turned it down in order to keep his wealth and status.
The story of the Samaritan woman who encounters Christ while drawing water from a well (John 4:1-42) offers insight into what it means to look beyond personal circumstances, no matter how negative they are, and accept Christ as Messiah.
In Luke 19:2-10, Jesus asked Zacchaeus, a tax collector, if he could come to his house that day. Zacchaeus obviously could have refused, but he instead accepted and it changed his life.
My personal favorite story involving free will/choice is that of the Roman centurion who sought out Christ in order to request healing for a servant. (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Here was a man, a Roman who no doubt was raised as a pagan and was part of the occupying military forces. Somewhere, somehow along the line, he chose to make a commitment to believe in Christ; he chose to seek His healing (and for another, not for himself); and he chose to make his request personally. This is one of the best examples of not only making a spiritual choice, but of also choosing to publicly express that faith actively.
There are just a few examples. The New Testament abounds with countless others, such as the repentant thief on the cross, the disciples who left their professions, and on and on.
The point is that when Christ interacts with anyone, they have to choose how to respond. It’s always that person’s choice to choose to respond positively or negatively. There is no coercion.
That is what makes Christianity a relationship. Along with the gift of Christ as Savior, the gift of the ability to freely accept that gift should never be taken for granted.
Free will is a wonderful, God given gift. Let’s remember that this Christmas season. Let’s also cherish it and exercise it faithfully as a New Year approaches. We still have a lot to be thankful for in this country, in spite of the “progressive” path it’s taking. And…we have a lot of work to do in the next couple of years. Let’s choose wisely and prayerfully.