How much choice does any individual human actually have? We speak of “free will”—but how much of a choice to accept God’s grace does anyone have, given the brainwashing and propaganda to which they are subjected? How much of a choice to accept God’s grace does a young boy in a radicalized Muslim school have? How much of a choice to accept God’s grace does someone have who is ensnared by some ultra fundamentalist church, where performance-based religion rules?
Being in Christ is a divine invitation to an eternal relationship, open to everyone. But being in Christ is not an automatic, divinely bestowed or imposed gift. Being in Christ is not a spiritual address or a relationship he forces on us. God is not coercive—he does not bully us into accepting his love. We may decline the relationship he offers. We have a choice.
But how much of a choice do we really have? Are we all on a level playing field, or when it comes to responding favorably to God’s invitation do the odds favor some of us more than others?
1) I believe God provides an open invitation to all mankind—and that in some way, somehow, God will, in his perfect wisdom and love, eventually draw people to himself. Because of the cross of Christ, all are eventually invited to accept God’s love. However, all are not, at any moment in time, equally drawn by God’s grace to relationship in Christ. Therefore, all humans have free will, but at any given point in time, some are more free than others because God has drawn them, by his grace.
2) God’s grace draws us to Christ (see John 6:44 and 6:65). Drawn indicates some divine illumination, some impartation of light and understanding that was not there before. By virtue of our humanity, we have a spiritual genetic predisposition, we are “hard-wired” or at least incredibly attracted to religion rather than grace, like iron filings to a magnet. In order for us to unplug from wrong-headed notions, including the attraction that bad-news religion presents to us, and plug into God’s grace, God has to help prod us and “draw us.” In this regard, perhaps God’s grace is somewhat like a magnetic field.
When God “draws” us he graciously overcomes the spiritual inertia that holds us captive. So in drawing us I believe God, who is love, acts as the divine Lover. He pursues us and beckons to us (this in contrast with the religious idea that he is threatening to burn the hell out of us for all eternity, torturing us if we don’t comply with his wishes).