Choices bring us into a web of relations and circumstances which may be either loving or eventually leave us with a deep feeling of hopelessness. Since we never have complete data for choices, we may ask: what should guide our most important choices? And especially: What should guide us in deciding our belief systems? I give my view from a Christian perspective.
We all make choices - all the time. Each day we have to make choices. Some choices are more important than others and wise people spend time thinking about the outcome of their choices. I am often amazed by the fact that we have to make so many important decisions so early in life when we know so little about life itself. Most of us make decisions about our future occupation and our partners with which we want to share our lives while we are rather young. Often we later regret those decisions. Although many things in life are outside our control, one can say that eventually our whole life comes down to one word - decisions.
To make decisions we need data. All sorts of data. Once we think that we have weighed all the pros and cons, and have taken all aspects into consideration, we eventually come to a decision. The decision is the outcome of a long process of thinking (and for some - praying) in which we consider all the available data. The information that we process does not merely concern physical facts; it also includes the background data that forms our belief systems. We have been brought up in a certain kind of family, studied at a certain kind of school or university, enjoyed listening to certain persons, reading certain books, watching certain programs on TV or clips on the internet and in general engaged with our world through all kinds of life experiences.
The main problem with all choices is that we never have complete data. We do not know how things will evolve in future. We do not even have all the data regarding our situation at the time when we make our choices. This is why Christians do not trust themselves in this regard but pray that God would lead them - maybe that God would reveal his will through their reading of the Bible. The wise among us have learned not to force decisions but to carefully consider the flow of events. A closed door is closed for a reason. That is why people often say that they go with their "gut feeling". Christians may ask themselves whether they have real inner peace about something, whether the circumstances align and whether in their reading of God's Word confirm these beacons.
In our day we are exposed to many different points of view - different ethical views and different worldviews. We hear the arguments for other lifestyles and religions. The mainstream media often present alternative views not merely as equally acceptable but as something to actively explore. And many people explore this plurality of choice. They seriously consider alternative belief systems than those of their parents and the community from which they originate. In our day it seems very much "in" to make daring decisions. In this view, life is considered as disposable - we should experiment and "follow our heart". The journey is important - not the destiny.
This sounds nice on the ear. Since we do not have complete knowledge about things, it seems reasonable to think that we should explore and see for ourselves. Often we are not satisfied with our present situation or we want to explore alternatives because we do not feel that our present situation satisfies our deep desires. The problem, however, is that exploring ethical and spiritual matters involve us as humans on the deepest level - it is not comparable with exploring our material world. So often the high expectations and intense feelings of exploration eventually make way for a different conclusion, namely that one has become entangled in an unsatisfactory web of relations which has more in common with a prison than a resort. One should not exchange one prison for another!
Major decisions in this regard are always made after many smaller and less obvious decisions concerning the kind of influences that we engage with. Sometimes it is not so much that people regret making certain decisions; it is, rather, that they experience the outcome of allowing decisions to be made for them in that they merely followed their desires and even lusts. Going with the stream of popular opinion is surely not a guarantee that the outcome would be satisfactory. Once people become ensnared in unsatisfactory webs of entanglement - often the eventual outcome of their decisions - they might lose hope. In their deepest essence, they might feel that the journey has become so unpleasant (satisfying lusts might eventually lead to the acknowledgement that this is an empty pursuit with no real joy in sight) that it is not worth proceeding. On the other hand, when one experiences a deep sense of fulfilment in life and has hope for the life to come, one might overcome a lot of pain and sorrows with the end in mind.
There is another aspect to decision-making. This is trust. Often people make decisions not because they think that they have considered all the data but rather because they trust the persons involved in their decisions. Since we can never have a complete set of data, we may accept that we can never make the perfect decision. But most decisions eventually involve other persons. These involve the person whom I marry, the persons with whom I spend time or hang out with and as well as those with whom I must work.
Decisions involve building a web of such relationships. When we make choices, we decide for or against certain relationships and circumstances. One may make choices in line with your desires and lusts and find oneself embedded in a web of superficial and untrustworthy relationships. Or one may explore life to the fullest and at the same time experience the love and guidance of those who surround you. Such decisions may lead to loving relationships and inner fulfilment that lies on a deeper level than the mere excitement of trying something new.
In the Christian view, this also involves a loving relationship with God through his Spirit that dwells in us. True Christians experience the peace that God brings into their lives and this motivates them to make decisions which would not harm that relationship. They take care to stay within the boundaries of this loving relationship. As such Christians acknowledge that as humans they may make wrong choices; that is why they trust God to lead them. They believe that God knows the future and that he would lead them even though this may involve situations of pain and loss. They believe that only God gives true satisfaction in this life and also promises a future life with him.
Why would people make a choice to accept Jesus in their lives? Why would they allow him to come through his Spirit into their lives and start this spiritual relationship? On the other hand, why would people turn away from the Christian life? It all comes down to trust. If people see the love of Jesus in the lives of Christians they are drawn to also experience it. If people experience that Christians are superficial, arrogant and judgmental, they turn away to explore other possibilities. Many people who have turned to other lifestyles and even to other worldviews have been hurt by Christians.
The most important command that Jesus gives to his church is that they should love each other. So often Christians are not so much committed to Jesus as to some doctrine or principle. They think that their view of Scripture is the only Truth. In fact, there are often various possible views and interpretations of Biblical passages that adhere to good Christian doctrine. Even when we stand up for Christian values, we should do so with humbleness and respect for those holding alternative views. We should stand firm but without being aggressive and arrogant. If we as Christians want to bring people to Jesus Christ, we should live his love. We should demonstrate the love of Jesus in our daily lives. Those who experience such loving relationships would also be willing to trust such Christians and eventually also to entrust their lives to Jesus Himself.
The most important choice that I ever made was to allow Jesus into my life. For 36 years now, I have enjoyed his love, peace and joy in my life. Every day I have the deeply satisfying experience of his presence in my life. Although I surely walk in faith, nothing can be compared with the inner peace that God gives. I am always thankful to him for calling me, for appearing at the door of my life. For presenting me with the gift of salvation. I can only hope that readers who have not yet done so, will also give God a chance in their lives; that they may share the experience of true Godly and Christian love.
Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref. wmcloud.blogspot.com)
The Power of God
Something or Someone is missing? (Dr. Francois Carr)
Revival is of the Lord (Arjan Baan)
A message for the church
Om God te glo