By Michael E. Brooks
“. . . Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .” (Joshua 24:15, NKJV).
This is an election year in many parts of the world. In November Americans will elect a new president and vice-president, a new House of Representatives, many new senators, governors, state congressmen and other officials. A few months ago Nepal selected a new constitutional assembly which is in the process of radically changing the political nature of their country. Bangladesh has recently set a date in December for its next parliamentary election, which will replace the current caretaker government. These are but a few of the elections during this very political year.
A friend of mine is fond of the phrase, “one can choose his choices, but he cannot choose their consequences”. He correctly reminds us that every decision we make has ramifications, and we dare not ignore them. They are intrinsic to the option which we choose. We may decide whether to leave a light switch in the on or off position. If we choose “off”, the consequence is darkness. If we choose “on” the result is higher utility bills. One cannot choose to have no utility bills, but to avoid darkness by using electric light at the same time. That option does not exist.
The Christian doctrine of human nature includes the concept of free moral agency. Simply put this means that people have a choice as to how they will live with regard to morals and ethics. We cannot always choose our physical circumstances, but we can choose in such matters as whether to steal or work for what we desire, whether to speak truth or lies, and whether or not to believe in God. We can decide upon such actions and attitudes for ourselves. We cannot however choose the results of those actions. If we choose to steal, and are caught, we must suffer the consequences. If we lie and are discovered, our words will cost us embarrassment at least, and quite likely much more. And if we reject God but eventually discover that he is real we will face his judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10).
It is a very human tendency to project onto others our own desires and prejudices. We often believe about candidates what we wish to believe, ignoring evidence that suggests different character, ideals, or stands on issues that those which we wish for them to have. Charismatic presence, attractive slogans, and membership in one’s favorite party do not guarantee that any candidate will produce the results we desire. The people have a choice at election time. Once the results are in, their free will is finished, at least for that period. At that time they must accept the consequences.
The same is true in moral and spiritual arenas. A particular behavior may appeal to us (for example alcohol, drugs, sexual activity, etc.). We can choose whether or not to engage in these. But once our practice is begun we can no longer choose freely the result. Addiction, disease, criminal record, or other such consequence will follow in many cases, no matter how much we protest that ours was an innocent, harmless choice.
It is a wonderful thing that God gave us freedom of choice. But it is only good if we accept the responsibility which accompanies our liberty. If we study our options carefully and choose wisely our freedom blesses us. If we do not we will suffer greatly. “Choose for yourselves this day . . . .”
By Michael E. Brooks