I watched a movie recently in which God and angels played a significant role. While the film was interesting, it's theology was way out of kilter.
For one thing, like so many Hollywood attempts to portray divinity, God and his heavenly messengers were characterized as being merely greater or more powerful versions of human beings. They possessed and exhibited many of the same moral faults and weaknesses we find in ourselves.
But the prominent theological problem was in how the movie dealt with the subjects of God's sovereignty and man's free will. The central premise of the movie focused on the idea that angels are around us making adjustments in our lives in order to keep us in line with God's perfect plan.
God is pictured as the Chairman of the Board who is only concerned about His plans for the world being carried out.
The angels are portrayed almost as gangster-like characters who are busy making sure that everything goes according to the Master's plan, even if it means "roughing up" some people or negatively altering their circumstances in order to accomplish that goal.
At issue is humanity's free will. Do we have any real choice, or are our lives being precisely directed by fate or by some all-powerful God? In the movie, it was suggested that we only have the appearance of free will -- that if we were truly free to decide for ourselves, we would make a mess of things.
The issue of God's sovereignty and man's free will is one that has been debated over the centuries, even being one of the reasons the Christian community has divided into various denominations. I certainly can't even begin to touch the depths of that subject in this brief writing.
However, let's make sure that we don't acknowledge one biblical truth to the exclusion of the other. Yes, there is an all-knowing and all-powerful God who is ultimately in control of the universe. But He also decided to create mankind with the freedom to make real choices, opening the door to the possibility that man would choose something other than God's will, thus making a mess of things.
God isn't primarily a CEO concerned about His plan getting accomplished. He's more like the Heavenly Father who is concerned about what's best for His children. He knows that if we would choose His way, it would be the most beneficial course of action we could take.
I don't believe human beings can thwart the overarching plans of God for the world, but we can certainly hinder what God hopes to accomplish in our own lives. Think about Queen Esther in the Bible. She faced the choice of whether or not to risk her life in order to speak up in defense of her people.
She was told, "If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).
God may have put Esther in that situation in order for her to help the Jews. But she could still choose. If she chose not to defend them, she would face the consequences. But God's plan to deliver the Jews would still be accomplished, only by some other person or means.
God does have wonderful plans for our lives. He wants us to follow His will for our own good. But we can choose whether or not to do His will.
If we exercise that freedom to do what we want instead of what He wants, we won't frustrate God's plans. But sooner or later we will have to face the consequences of that poor choice. So let's be sure that we choose wisely.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.