“Attributes of Love” Series Introduction: 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love”, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 lists the attributes of love. So in this series, we’re going to discuss each of the attributes in those verses, one by one, to learn more about the nature of God.
I’m sure everyone has seen a child having a meltdown because they want what they want. They don’t care what their parent says about it, they don’t care that it doesn’t belong to them, they don’t care if it will hurt them. They don’t care if what they want doesn’t even make sense. That is insisting on your own way. Most of us never fully grow out of it.
But God does not insist on His own way. We always have the choice. Some people shy away from religion of any kind because they don’t want to be subject to requirements. They don’t want to be required to attend services, to change their lifestyle, or to donate from their income. Many people take the strictest view of the Bible’s commandments and say “well, I can never live up to those, so I won’t even try”. They think that God is insisting on “my way or the highway”, and they just don’t want to give up that much control over their own lives! Who can blame them? Our culture is all about freedoms and choices.
God is, too. We have a choice to start following God, or to never start following God. We have a choice to stop following God.
Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
You may recognize the line “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. What you may not know is the seriousness of that line. This is Joshua speaking to the Israelites who, after coming to the promised land, are still sometimes seeking the “gods” that their fathers encountered in other lands. Joshua tells them that they can’t have it both ways. Joshua declards his intention to follow the God, and they say that they will do the same. Multiple times, he tells them to make very sure that they are willing to give up those other gods – that other culture. And he gives them this warning:
Joshua 14:20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.
They could choose. We can choose. Those choices have repercussions – but so do ALL choices! If God insisted on His own way, then we would all be saved because we would all choose to believe, love, and follow Him all the time. We would all be kind and there would be no evil, because we’d all be acting out of love and God’s will all the time. In short, we’d already be in Heaven. But God is giving everyone the opportunity to choose now, while we’re on earth, so that we get a taste of what we’re choosing for all eternity.
Romans 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Just because you don’t like the consequences doesn’t mean there is no choice. Only a child thinks like that. As an adult, I know I can choose to stop showing up to work, because I don’t feel like it, and then get fired. I can choose not to pay my electric bill, because I’d rather spend the money elsewhere, and then my lights get turned off. I can choose to avoid socializing, because people are complicated, and then end up without any friends. It would be immature to be angry about those consequences, when I am the one that made those self-seeking choices.
But as we grow closer to God (by our choice), we also grow more like Him.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This doesn’t mean we stop being the person we are! No, God made you uniquely you, so He’s not asking you to give that up. You don’t have to give up your creativity, or your intelligence, or your strong will, or any of the things that make you who you are. But as we come to know God, we have a new perspective on things, and make new choices. We use those strengths in new ways – in the ways God intended them to be used. We find that, more and more, we are making Godly choices in our lives. That is why the Bible says:
1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
Yes, the Bible tells us to obey. It says it many times. But the context is always that it is our choice, and that it is our expression of following God. What would be the point of keeping His commandments if you did not believe in God’s plan? But we choose to follow because we believe that it is right, because we believe in God’s plan. But it is still our choice. God does not insist on His own way.