Another Hot Potato

“I don’t want to.” “I really don’t feel like it.” “Well I totally disagree!” “It’s against my convictions.” “I hate to rock the boat.” “What will my parents and friends think if…?”, “Too much to lose.”

So where’s the line?

We have God and his perfect will on one side,

the ‘right’ application of his will for that specific circumstance on the other side,

and in the middle we are scratching our heads,

making statements, taking positions, declaring this and that. It’s confusing, distressing, divisive at times, and often downright hard to know what on earth to do. But this is where we live.

Nothing has brought this struggle into sharper focus than this pandemic, vaccinations, masks, travel, bubbles, and freedom of choice. Truckers are honking horns outside parliament in Canada: “All we want is the freedom to choose!” Sounds reasonable. Then an exhausted health worker says that she can’t do it anymore. “Your choice not to be vaccinated caused you to end up in intensive care. I had no choice about looking after you. Where does my freedom enter into your conversation?” Then we run for cover as the salvos are hurled back and forth. As I’m writing this I’ve overheard a trucker saying on the news, “I want to be able to do what I want.”

Precisely what does glorious and free mean? Honestly? And I’m not being ‘anti-trucker here, it’s a genuine question, because I too love the idea of freedom of choice for all.

What happens when what I want may have consequences that restrict what someone else wants?

It’s not easy, and I’m not sitting here with an agenda or a simplistic answer. It merely has me thinking of how we respond if God is part of our worldview? Do we reflect his love in our choices? Does what he models sometimes collide with what we want? What happens then? Has it ever happened?

In the middle – between God’s perfection of will and his perfection of response – we struggle in a fallen world, many voices, egos, agendas, blindness, deafness, stubbornness, politics, expediency, political correctness, self-interest, fear, selective hearing, paths of least resistance, compromise, status quo, we’ve always done it this way, it’s in the bible, it’s obvious. There’s a lot of stuff in the middle, you may have noticed. 🙂

Jesus came into that messy middle when he lived among us over two thousand years ago. Even the decision to be born in human form was probably not something he felt like, not really anything in it for him. He didn’t need more to be fulfilled, or to be human in order to understand. It appears that his action of becoming human was motivated out of love for us because of our desperate predicament. As a result Jesus is sometimes called the suffering servant, the sacrificial lamb, the good shepherd, the Word made flesh, Immanuel – God among us.

Living among us he said, “Don’t be afraid, turn the other cheek, lay down your life, love one another, follow me”, and perhaps even,” To do my will at times will not be what you want or understand at the time.”

I often quote Peter who wrestled with this dilemma all his life. From the first time Jesus stepped into Simon Peter’s boat and instructed him to go out one more time to fish in broad daylight. He used all the excuses at the beginning of this blog, but he did it anyway. Despite all the protestations he had a revelation of God’s will and his will not always being one and the same. He discovered through experience (not rational thinking) that common sense sometimes is misleading when applied to God – sometimes being the operative word. ‘His ways are not my ways’ (Isaiah 55:8). Following Jesus was a challenge for a man with a business, an opinion, a strong will, and a mouth – unafraid to speak his mind. We have the privilege of witnessing Peter arm wrestle with Jesus repeatedly without ever winning. And Jesus loved him through it. The key was that Peter wanted to work it out with Jesus, whatever it cost him.

How about when Peter was told by Jesus what would happen to him one day? Crash go his plans, retirement, time with grandkids… or whatever. “But it was different then,” we say.

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18

What does that declaration do to libertarian freedom? Well of course the declaration never inhibits a response that says, “No thank you”, and drifts off in another direction.

The point is that when it comes to walking with God there are times, perhaps many, when to do his will means that my will is subservient. I do what I don’t feel like when he shows me that my actions at this moment are carried out because of his love for another, not merely for me. It can make no sense; like fishing in daylight – for Simon Peter, or walking on water, or visiting a Gentile Roman centurion. It may be socially challenging and lead to awkward family situations – as it undoubtedly was for Mary and Joseph. Remember Mary’s famous response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) God’s will could lead to death – as was the case with John the Baptist, Stephen who was stoned to death, Peter crucified upside down, John in exile,or Paul beheaded.

Even more confusing is when God says one thing for one circumstance and then states the exact opposite for another. Jesus instructed the disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for the journey,” He told them, “No staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no second tunic.” (Luke 9:3)  Then later he says: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

“But you said!”

“Not this time.”

That’s totally frustrating! We want a principle, an absolute that applies to every situation, every time. God, however, desires a relationship that can adapt with grace depending upon the circumstance. Our compromise is to avoid conflict, to relegate controversy to personal preference, “that’s not the way I see it”, “perhaps that’s right for you”. And so we muddle on in the middle sidestepping desperately to avoid clashes of wills. Which is perhaps ironically the very thing God is trying to bring to the surface so together we can discern the difference in this situation between his will and my/our will. But if one of us has to be right, polite, and uptight – then hope withers on the vine.

All this leads me to ponder how I make my decisions. Where does my will end and his begin? Where do I test my will with others in order to discern whether I’m on the right track? How often is my thinking and are my decisions focused on the welfare of those around me rather than what is merely best for me? What does it look like to be in the world but not of the world? Do I have to ‘win’, or is that not the most important factor on every occasion? What does grace and mercy really feel like – both to give and to receive?

Following Jesus in this messy in-between requires a commitment to being pruned, redirected, learning another way. It demands guts, humility, self-awareness, other-awareness, love as an action, and generosity of heart as a lifestyle. My thoughts often go back to that crazy woman who emptied her most expensive possession (perfume) all over Jesus in gratitude. It was messy, irrational, a waste of resources, publicly awkward, socially insensitive. And yet Jesus loved it, he defended her and appreciated the gift saying, “She who has been forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:47)

Jonathan and Melissa Helsser have written some deep songs. Their recent one, ‘I Am Your Beloved’ contains the line: “The One who knows me best, is the One who Loves me Most.” That is the essence of God the Father’s love for every person. It’s the pebble of truth dropping into the pond of my life that ripples out from a center where I am known, loved, and accepted in every way. The song ends with the Father running toward his prodigal son…. undeserving of grace or mercy, has totally screwed up in every way. What a messy scene in the middle. But what a glorious homecoming and revelation that defied logic. In the real world that son would have been possibly killed by legalistic villagers in righteous indignation. But if you have felt the father’s embrace when you least deserve it (many times)… the pebble drops and the ripples make it easy to pay it forward.

Love one another

I don’t know about you, but my experience is not like that with most disciples of Jesus. We judge, accuse, disown, and disregard far too regularly and easily – just like the rest of the world. But it’s never too late for change, to be different in order to make a difference.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

A few thoughts for our troubled times…. no easy answers. And when that’s the case it can be wisest to walk alongside One who is the answer. Jesus knows what it is like to wrestle in this world, for the courage to do the right things. Remember the struggle and agony in Gethsemane when he wanted to avoid the Cross? “But not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Wouldn’t it be refreshing and encouraging for each of us to be cut and shaped from that kind of cloth for this day and age? God knows, the world needs people who are different – to be the difference.

I Am Your Beloved (Lyrics) – Jonathan Helser & Melissa Helser

I’ve Heard the Accusation
And I’ve Heard the propaganda
I’ve Heard the Lies
They Whisper to my Soul
That I have been Forsaken
And I’ll Always be Forgotten
No Matter what I DO
It’s not Enough

Then I Heard a Voice
As it Opened Up the Heavens
Reminding Me
Of Whom I’ve Always been


I am Your Beloved
You have Bought Me
With Your Blood
And on Your Hand
You’ve Written out me Name
I am Your Beloved
One the Father Loves
Mercy has Defeated all my Shame


There’s no Accusation
Or any Condemnation
When I Look into my Fathers Eyes
They don’t See my sin
They only See Redemption
This is how my Heart
Has been Defined
I can Hear a Voice
That is Louder than the Thunder
Reminding me
Of Whom I’ve Always been


I am Your Beloved
You have Bought Me
With Your Blood
And on Your Hand
You’ve Written out me Name
I am Your Beloved
One the Father Loves
Mercy has Defeated all my Shame


The One who knows me Best
Is the One who Loves me Most
There is Nothing I have Done
That could Change
The Father’s Love

The One who knows me Best
Is the One who Loves me Most
There is Nothing I have Done
That could Change
The Father’s Love

The One who knows me Best
Is the One who Loves me Most
There is Nothing I have Done
That could Change
The Father’s Love


I am Your Beloved
You have Bought Me
With Your Blood
And on Your Hand
You’ve Written out me Name
I am Your Beloved
One the Father Loves
Mercy has Defeated all my Shame

I am Your Beloved
You have Bought Me
With Your Blood
And on Your Hand
You’ve Written out me Name
I am Your Beloved
One the Father Loves
Mercy has Defeated all my Shame


I can Hear the Feet
Of the Father Running
I can Hear the Feet
Of the Father Running

OH, I can Hear the Feet
Of the Father Running
OH, I can Hear the Feet
Of the Father Running

It’s Like a Stampede of Grace
Coming my Way
Mercy I Never Earned
Grace I Never Deserved
Coming to bring me Home Again

I can Hear the Father
Calling my Name
I can See the Face of my Father
I can Hear the Voice of my Father
Calling out my Name

I can Hear the Father
I can Hear the Heart
I can Hear the Heart of my Father

Here He Comes
Here He Comes
Here He Comes

[Bridge]
OH, the One who knows me Best
Is the One who Loves me Most
There is Nothing I have Done
That could Change
The Father’s Love

OH, the One who knows me Best
Is the One who Loves me Most
There is Nothing I have Done
That could Change

The Father’s love

John Cox

Christian Author

Leave a Reply