Conversations About God
By A. Graham Maxwell (edited by Jon Paulien)
Chapter Twelve: “God’s Law No Threat to Freedom” (12:1)
Is there anything more precious to intelligent human beings than freedom? Freedom from tyranny, freedom from fear, freedom to do the things we want to do? The good news is that God values nothing higher than our freedom. But not all His children have believed this. In fact, Satan persuaded one-third of the brilliant angels that this is not true about our God; that He is instead arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. And how God has had to work in Scripture and history to make it clear that He is not the kind of Person His enemies have made Him out to be!
We have seen that war broke out in heaven, the war that we call the Great Controversy. This war has continued and extended to this planet. This is not primarily a war in the military sense, it is a “war of words,” between Satan’s lies and the truth about God. For thousands of years now, God has sought to reveal the truth about this matter; not in claims, but with the evidence of demonstration. Yet many people in this world still believe Satan’s lies. Even among very devout religious people–even among Christians, who of all people should know better–many still believe Satan’s lies. And so the war continues.
Jesus, Paul and Moses all agree that love is the fulfillment of God’s law. But love and trust, the things that God desires the most, cannot be commanded or produced by force. Nor can they be made an obligation, something that we owe to God because He’s been so good to us. God wants more than this, and so should we! Our heavenly Father values nothing higher than the freedom of His family, and Jesus suffered and died to prove it. But if real freedom requires mutual love and trust based on evidence, why does God seem to command our love in the Decalogue?
In the previous chapter we considered some of the emergency measures God has used to hold the family together while He continues demonstrating the truth. Perhaps the most notable of these emergency measures has been His use of law. And most notable among God’s laws have been the Ten Commandments. But to many, God’s extensive use of law seems opposed to freedom. It has indeed been seriously misunderstood. Confusion arises even from Jesus’ words to His disciples on this subject. For example, in the Gospel of John Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, RSV). And He also said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14, RSV). What kind of friendship is it that demands obedience? How do you combine “keep my commandments,” with “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free?” (John 8:32, 36).