Home > I Might Be Insane > I Might Be Insane: People Can Choose

I Might Be Insane: People Can Choose

I have this thing that I believe about people that almost everyone agrees with. The weird thing is, when we actually start talking in depth, we come to this place where it seems we agree in principle but disagree when it comes to specific situations. I believe people have the capacity to make decisions about their actions. I believe people even have the ability to make really difficult choices. At this point, I’m assuming most of you are with me. I hope by the end of this some of you will disagree with me so I can gain a better understanding of why what I’m saying is disagreeable to others.

I think the ability of humans to choose was a deliberate design decision. God was particularly concerned with creating humans with options, the ability to choose different options, and more than that, the ability to examine decisions before making them. First man’s world was so simple, but God was sure to set it up with one complexity, an option with pros and cons depending on what was chosen. Eat and be filled with the knowledge of good and evil, satisfy curiousity, and die? Or refuse to eat and live, without knowing intimately the knowledge the fruit would provide? Choosing is central to being human, and, I suspect, a part of what it means to bear the image of God.

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. He asked, “Why do you think that person is overweight?” I responded simply with an answer I still believe is quite true, “They consume more calories than they burn.” My friend went on to talk about how he thought this person’s past affected their self-perception and so they ate to blame their self-perception on their weight instead of their past. I’ve never been all that convinced one’s personal past is the problem. The problem with this way of thinking is it pushes back the problem to something that really isn’t the cause. The problem is not what occurred to someone in that past, their experiences never forced them to consume more calories, their daily decisions resulted in their weight gain. I believe that whatever someone’s past, they still have the capacity to make their own choices about their life. That’s one issue regarding choice I sometimes find myself in disagreement with others on.

Addiction is another issue regarding choice me and others don’t always see eye-to-eye on. I don’t know what the medical definition of addiction is. My functional definition of addiction is being addicted means it’s really hard for someone to stop engaging in a behavior. Sometimes we throw the label “addict” on someone and give them a free pass on their behavior as if they can’t stop. We also undermine their power over their own decisions. And it’s kind of silly when we act like an addict is unable to stop.

Let’s use a common example: Alcoholism. Alcoholics have a very difficult time quitting, but they are perfectly capable of doing so. After an alcoholic quits, starting up again is not some inevitability because they are addicted. It’s a series of choices: choosing to get the keys to the car, choosing to leave the house, enter the car, drive to a place with alcohol, grab some alcohol, pull out one’s wallet and purchase the alcohol, choosing to drive somewhere to drink the alcohol, opening the alcohol, drinking it, and then choosing to continue to drink it to excess. These behaviors don’t happen because someone is addicted, they happen because someone makes decisions they have control over. An alcoholic does not get drunk because they are an alcoholic, they get drunk because they choose to get drunk.

This way of thinking about choice is like a lot of things in the kingdom, beautiful and difficult. It’s difficult because every individual, including you and I, become completely responsible for our own actions and their effects. The problem with us is not that we can’t stop drinking, manipulating others, smoking, overreacting, eating, watching tv, looking at porn, etc, etc, the problem is we choose not to stop. We have no excuses. It’s a beautiful way of thinking about choice because in His love, YHWH has given us the power to make choices over our lives. We have power to break the negative cycles of behavior we are in. We have hope, which is far better than any excuse.

For the follower of Jesus, changing one’s behavior so that it honors YHWH is good start, but it’s not the end goal. The end goal is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The goal is to have all of ourselves in full obedience to YHWH, wanting what Jesus wants, feeling like Jesus feels, thinking how Jesus thinks, and doing what Jesus does. The ultimate goal is complete transformation so right behavior is a natural outpouring of our new self. However, even when right behavior seems to come unnaturally, it is still worth choosing obedience to our King.

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