PART ONE: ON FREE WILL AND SIN
Why would God tempt us through free will?
Consider God’s relationship with us. God reveals Himself as “Father”, meaning we are His children. We are not slaves forced to obey; nor are we pets, trained and commanded. We are His children. A human father wants his children to become adults like him. Our heavenly Father wants us to grow up and become spiritual adults, to become perfect as He is perfect. A human father needs to let his children fail so that they may learn to become adults. Likewise, our heavenly Father lets us fail so that we can learn to become spiritual adults. When we do fail, He offers us forgiveness to help us get back up.
Do you congratulate an alarm clock for going off, or thank a car for driving? Clocks and cars have no choice. They are designed to do one thing, and they do that because there is no other option. God could have designed us only to be capable of good deeds, but then they really wouldn’t be good deeds. They would just be the deeds we were designed to do. A deed only becomes a good deed when you have the option not to do it, but purposefully choose to do good.
If you love someone, can you stick them in a sack and carry them off with you? You can’t force someone to love you. You can profess your love, but then you have to wait for them to return their love to you, freely. Love can only be given freely. God wants us to love Him and so gives us the freedom to love. If we didn’t have freedom, we wouldn’t love God. Your pet goldfish doesn’t love you because it doesn’t have any freedom.
God wants to dwell in our hearts. He wants to be a part of us and we a part of Him. He wants a heart opened to Him warmly with love, not a cold, lifeless heart that He thrusts Himself into. For our hearts to be warm, we must choose to love, we must desire to have Him in our hearts. For us to be able to choose and desire God, we also have to be able to choose and desire something else, even though that other thing is sinful.
Along with this freedom to choose good and love, of course, comes the freedom to reject good and choose sin. But that is a necessary consequence. We usually think of temptation as the opportunity to choose sin, but why not think of temptation as the opportunity to choose good, to choose God? Over and over again, God gives us the opportunity to choose to love Him, rather than forcing us to obey Him. Because we are not yet perfect, we sometimes slip and choose sin, but that’s why He offers us forgiveness, so that we can have another chance at choosing the good, at choosing to love Him and be His beloved children.