I saw an cartoon posted on a friend’s Facebook page a while back. I’m sure everyone has seen some kind of variation of the theme: A picture of The World’s Most Interesting Man saying “I don’t always do (blank), but when I do, then (blank). This one had a representation of God saying “I don’t always give men free will, but when I do, I like to punish them for using it.” I thought to myself – What a perfect illustration of the atheistic, secular view of both God’s law and sin.
First, logically, the cartoon makes no sense, even for an atheist. Free will NEVER translates into absolute freedom. Even in secular society, there are constraints against freedom. For example: We are all free to rape, murder, lie, steal, etc., but there are laws against and punishments for this behavior. Why is this? Simply, even non-believers realize that there are some absolute moral rights and wrongs, and society would completely disintegrate if these absolutes aren’t enforced. (As an aside, isn’t it funny that naturalist will argue against absolute morality until they are blue in the face, but just try to steal their wallet and see what happens!) As Christians, we realize that God has impressed His moral law on all men’s hearts, so that they know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and are without excuse (Romans 1:20). So why does secular society reject the logical conclusion from what is so plain to see? It’s because starting down the path of absolute truth inevitably leads one to a higher moral authority (God), which leads to a perfect moral law that must be obeyed (God’s word), and the punishment that must be enforced for disobedience (damnation without a savior).
Second, and more importantly for our discussion, is that this cartoon displays the atheistic misunderstanding both of God and of sin. So often we see God portrayed as an unloving tyrant, eager to condemn even the most pious individual for some perceived slight against Him. God’s commands are mocked as outdated, homophobic, misogynistic, oppressive; a constraint on happiness and freedom. Yet we, as Christians, know that God is love (1 John 4:8), that we are His children (1 John 3:1), that He desires for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and that He does not delight in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). More importantly, we know that, contrary to being restrictive, God’s perfect law sets the sinner free – free to enjoy life to the fullest as God desires, and free from the bondage of sin! (Romans 6:18)
As fallen, finite beings with limited minds, we tend to look at God’s laws and see only that which we desire to do, but are commanded to not. We must understand, as God’s thoughts are so far above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), He is our loving father and only wants the best for us. I’ve always thought that this example from my own life was a good illustration of this idea: We have a wood burning fireplace in our living room. We also have a 3 year old boy. When we first put in the fireplace and started a fire, our son would stare at the flickering flames, mesmerized. There is beauty in a roaring fire, no doubt, and he would look at it and wanted more than anything to touch it. I, as his father who loves him beyond measure, would not allow that to happen. He would get mad! He threw fits, cried, pouted – you name it. He didn’t understand that, while seemingly beautiful, the flames were extremely dangerous. It’s the same way with us and sinful behavior. Sin looks fun. It’s enticing. It appears beautiful, and we, in our limited capacity, cannot understand the dangers it poses. However, we have a loving Father who adores us, who wants to protect us from the poisonous effects of sin, and who understands in a way that we never will what is good and what is not. So God has given us His word to follow and obey. The atheist, with no understanding of God’s perfect love, with no comprehension of His character, only sees God’s commands as a hindrance to enjoyment, a shackle to be broken on the path to true happiness. Our hearts should break for those with such a sad, backwards worldview!
By God’s grace, we as Christians are able to know God’s character. We understand that His commands for us are for our benefit, so that we may experience this life to the fullest. And we know that, while we will still face the consequences our inevitable disobedience, we have no fear of condemnation through our saving faith in Christ Jesus! Let us earnestly pray that those without this understanding will come to the realization so that they may too have this freedom!