“You believe and live the way you want to, and I’ll do the same” is a common response from others when challenging their faith and life. For whatever reason, some find comfort by the thought that religion is personal and no one else’s business. It’s as if they believe it’s a license to be wrong without penalty. Consider a few points associated with this attitude.
First, faith and life choices are personal and no man can impose his on another. We are individuals, with the God given right and duty to choose our own path. (Prov. 1:29-33) In fact, it’s not even possible to make someone believe – God gives the evidence and each one must decide.
Thankfully I’m not bound by someone else’s conviction and choices. Can you imagine a world in which all believed and did the same things? It might not be so bad if everyone followed the highest principles, but they don’t. I am grateful that God has given me the power to choose my direction. (Rev. 22:17)
Second, people can believe and live the way they want because there is more than one possible path. (Matt. 7:13-14) This fact is demonstrated in the Garden, when Adam and Eve could either obey or disobey God’s Will. While all have sinned and separated themselves from God, not everyone has accepted the means for salvation. God has given the way, but I can do with it as I please. (Mark 4:20)
Third, some act as if one alternative is just as good as another. (Isa. 5:20) You choose your path to salvation and I’ll choose mine, and we will both arrive at the same place. This mind-set denies God’s rightful place in the equation – He alone has the power to decide this matter. Were Judaism and paganism just as good as Christianity, then why preach the gospel to begin with? (Acts 4:12) Is a person saved with or without baptism, then why preach baptism for the forgiveness of sins? (Acts 2:38) While faith and life choices are personal, they do not all lead to the same place.
Fourth, just because you and I can believe and live the way we want doesn’t mean we can do so without consequence. Think about the laws of our land for a moment, can I not do with them as I please? No one can make me believe they’re good, or even obey them, but I’m still accountable to the powers that be. I don’t have to believe and follow God’s laws, but I cannot escape His judgment. (Hosea 4:6)
I don’t want to be liable for another’s mistake or poor judgment. (Ezek. 18:20) Abel was not answerable for Cain’s sin. Judas was guilty of treachery, not the other eleven apostles. In the same manner, I cannot benefit from another’s goodness. Paul fought the good fight and prepared himself to meet the Savior, I must do likewise. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
Fifth, I can and should challenge error, even if you have the right to be wrong. (James 5:19-20) We do this all the time in other areas of life. For example, children can lie to their parents, but good parents teach them it’s wrong to lie. If I believe there is right and wrong, then I must uphold my view. Even those who say “you believe and live the way you want to, and I’ll believe and live the way I want to” are defending a standard.
Sixth, we should never feel comfortable about being wrong, especially in spiritual matters. (Zech. 10:2) Am I going to feel better about being lost because no one could tell me what to do? I wonder if the suffering of hell will be less because I was free to choose. The origin of truth and righteousness is with God and no matter what I believe and do the standard remains.
In conclusion, when two disagree religiously and spiritually, one cannot dictate what the other believes or does. If God’s doesn’t make someone obey, then neither should I try to force His Will on them. God reveals what is right, presents evidence, and allows man the choice. What more can I do? (Ezek. 3:17-19)
By Terry Starling