Read: Joshua 24:15
“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
There are two main ways that Christians understand God’s will: a predestination view, and a free will view. John Wesley was decidedly free will and so is United Methodism. This WISH post will run the risk of being overly simplistic.
The predestined group views that the future has been determined by God, that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and that reason is part of God’s mysterious plan. We’ll understand it better some day, perhaps when we get to Heaven. God’s plan is predetermined and cannot be changed – it is scripted. In God’s wisdom, even sinful acts can be and are used to fulfill God’s ultimate plan.
Free will folks think that while God knows the future (or possibilities for the future), God doesn’t dictate it – we influence the future and determine it (in part) with our choices. The future is fluid and our decisions matter. Sinful and bad things happen every day. Since “sin” is defined as “that which is against God’s will” then obviously things happen in life that are NOT God’s will. “Now” matters, and our ability to make a difference is important. In the end God’s salvation will reign victorious.
Both groups agree that God is love, and that God’s love is universally given, and that in the end God will be victorious. Now, let’s consider the COVID-19 corona virus. Innocent people are getting sick and dying. Many will suffer, many will die, many will grieve deeply because of this pandemic. What do we make of it?
The predestination group may say, “Hang in there, God’s plan is hard to understand, but we have to trust that God’s purpose and plan are at work. This may be a sign of the “end times” and we’re one step closer to Christ’s return. Keep the faith. If someone you love dies, it was their time. Trust God, it’s in His hands.
The free will group may say, God has given us the ability to reduce suffering, limit the virus, save lives, and help each other through this crisis. God’s will is that we love one another by helping one another. God is with us, God understands the pain of our “fallen creation”, things like cancer, tornadoes, and plagues hurt people and don’t represent God’s will. When bad things happen to good people, God is present in the caregiving. Our belief that we can make a difference, makes a big difference.
Shalom and Choose Wisely,
Pastor Rob Nystrom