I remember the first time I sinned – or knew that I sinned anyway. I was probably, maybe six years old or so and one of the older girls on my street was teaching me to play “Concentration.”
(In case anyone doesn’t know, this is a kids’ card game, usually using a deck of pictures, in which the cards are turned face down on the table and you have to figure out/remember where the duplicates are.)
She went off to the bathroom for a few minutes and I remember agonizing (briefly) over whether I should cheat and look at the cards. I lost my battle with temptation, and then to make it worse, I lied to her when she accused me of having cheated. Yeah, I STILL feel guilty over that. I genuinely do. But I did have the choice to make, and I did know it was wrong, what I did. The law came alive in me, and I died. Death came to all people because all sinned. If I never did yield to temptation, would I be immortal? I dunno – no one’s ever done that but Jesus, and He chose to die for His loved ones.
I see your conundrum, though, and I do share it. Were we made in such a state that we were doomed to fall? And since we had no strength and therefore no choice to stand, why must we enter life by choice? Why not just drag us in the same way we were dragged into sin?
I’m not going to attempt to defend this exegetically (although I feel pretty sure I could, but have never consciously tried) because it’s late enough now that it’s about to become early. And I still want a hot bath so my creaky joints won’t keep me awake! But . . . I believe deep within myself that Abba is raising us up as a loving parent raises up a child from conception on through adulthood. The child is born with absolutely no self control. He can’t even control his bladder and bowels, can’t choose when to eat or sleep or laugh or even cry. He just does what comes naturally. No one can make him do anything, though pretty much anything can be done to him.
He’s not bad, that he doesn’t display love or have consideration for his poor tired mommy. He just can’t help it. He can’t help being hungry at 2:00 a.m. and if he has gas, he’s going to scream. He’s not going to hold it in for fear of waking the household.
As he grows and matures, though, he does become capable of being either very good or very bad or somewhere in between, and he will probably do all those things depending on the situation and his mood. The hope is that he will develop toward a balanced selflessness and a desire to serve and love others. That is the ideal of growing up. To grow in stature and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and in favor with God and with people.
And I think that is a model of what Abba is doing with us. We start with little to no free will, but as we grow, we learn to control our impulses & etc. This is made difficult because we were born out of relationship with Him. If the baby’s parents move to Abu Dhabi, to Abu Dhabi he will go, too, and if that puts him out of reach of his loving grandparents, well maybe that’s not fair to him, but that’s what his parents chose for him. Our first parents (however you may see them) chose things for us which we’re still dealing with today, just as our physical parents had a profound impact on our lives, clean contrary to our freedom of choice.
We are GROWING INTO free will. That’s why I believe Abba allows and requires us to freely choose to return to His kingdom. Yes, He knows that He will woo us in or drag us in by long time and suffering if we are that stubborn, but in the end, I DO believe that we will choose to come home, and that we will do that because we have genuinely made a fully informed, fully rational, fully free decision to return. And the sooner we know the Truth and are made free by Him, the sooner we will make that decision.
Love you, Brother