Why Does God Give us a Choice to Follow Him?

Hey Michelle, :blossom:
One of my students, who was in your lecture in Nov, has been trying to get this question to me all week, and it finally made it through.

Hello Mrs. Spaulding, this is Claire. Here is my question for Michelle Tepper

Since God is such a powerful and wonderful being, why does he give us a choice to follow him or to not? When instead of just giving us a choice He could send some miraculous sign and everyone who would see it can believe?

Hi Claire,

This is a great question, one that people have been asking through the ages. In fact in the Bible the Pharisees come to Jesus many times and as for a sign so that they could believe. Here is one passage where that happens. I put it in the message version because I like the everyday language.

Matt. 12:38-41 The message

Later a few religion scholars and Pharisees got on him. “Teacher, we want to see your credentials. Give us some hard evidence that God is in this. How about a miracle?” Jesus said, “You’re looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you’re going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah-evidence. Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish’s belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in a deep grave.

“On Judgment Day, the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about ‘proofs.’ On Judgment Day, the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that will condemn this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon’s is right in front of you, and you quibble over ‘evidence.’

There are a few things to think about here that link into your question. Many people think if they just saw something miraculous happen then they would definitely believe. On the surface, the Pharisees question seems harmless enough. However, they are asking this question in the middle of Jesus main years of ministry. This means that most of not all of them had seen Jesus heal people and maybe even raise people from the dead with their own eyes! Still, they were saying, “just give us one more sign on our terms and right when we want it’.

How does Jesus answer? He references miraculous works of the past, because these are religious leaders that already should believe that they happened. Then he says that his teaching and presence is the best evidence they could ever have and they still don’t believe. Then he goes further and gives a prophecy about his death and resurrection, saying that this will be the greatest evidence they will ever get. We know from the rest of the New Testament, that even though the pharisees saw Jesus do miraculous signs and come back from the dead still many would not believe.

We now stand on the side of history where we have all the evidence we need to believe that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. What Jesus told the Pharisees is still true for us today, there will never be any greater miraculous sign than that. However, God in his great love and mercy towards us is still reaching out in many ways to many different people all of the time. I spoke about this in my answer to @ question on miracles. Sadly, just like the Pharisees for many people it doesn’t matter how many signs or miracles they receive, they will continue to dismiss them as coincidence, explain them away, or simple continue to ask for more signs. How many signs will ever be enough?

What I love so much about God is that he is so far above us and yet he still understands that we need him reach out in a way that we can grasp with our limited understanding. Psalm 103:13-14 (MSG) puts it beautifully As parents feel for their children, GOD feels for those who fear him.He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Even though we already have been shown the greatest miraculous sign through the resurrection, God still reaches out to us through his Word, nature, other people, dreams, visions, miracles and many other ways.

As for your question about choice, God continues to give us the choice to believe in Him or not, because He loves us. True love is not born from force, it is born from freedom. On way to think about it is marriage. Peter and I will be married 14 years this year. Peter went out of his way to give me signs of his love. He took me to Italy and Spain, he spent long hours talking to me, he paid attention to my love for coffee and good food. Yet when he finally asked me to marry him, because he loved me so much, He asked a question and left it up to me to choose. God invites us into relationship with Him because God is love, he will never violate love by forcing someone to say yes to Him.

If you are hungry to get to know God in a new way reach out to Him and ask Mrs. Spaulding for some help. I’m sure she’d love to chat more.

Remember you are loved,