respecting freedom

The Grand Inquisitor to Jesus:

"The freedom of their faith was dearer to Thee than anything in those days fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often say then, 'I will make you free'?

"But now Thou hast seen these 'free' men," the old man adds suddenly, with a pensive smile.

It is very painful to watch. To see people making choices that seem sure to lead to dead-ends, to dig them in deeper and leave them more desperate. And now that the cold has arrived, these missteps seem all the more frightening. I try to offer a better answer if I see one, but it is often not accepted. Then there's the tightness in the back of my neck as I watch them turn and set off on their tragic mission.

But what is the alternative? To take over people's lives? To threaten them with eviction if they do not accept our control over their decisions? Some ministries and most social services take that approach, because it does seem more effective, more efficient. But it doesn't respect people's freedom.

And, as the Inquisitor rightly says, Jesus held our freedom dear. He would not compel or buy our obedience, our love. He would rather endure our disobedience, painful as it was to him to watch us destroy ourselves, than force us to obey. God watches our excruciating disobedience every day. And then he continues to provide sun and rain for both the just and the unjust.

Can I bear to do that as well? To try to help with basic needs, to endure the pain of wrong choices, to hope they will learn and become more open to the wiser path, to plead for their voluntary turning. Respecting them as free persons, as Jesus always did.