In an argument for the teaching of salvation by free-will acceptance of Jesus, someone once affirmed to me that God doesn’t want automatons that will mindlessly follow him. This idea is age-old and has been worded in many ways, but they all come down to one thing. “I don’t want God to make me follow Him; it is and should be my decision.”
Another immensely popular concept is that God wants people, not puppets. No one likes the idea of a Being Who has the power and the right to decide the existence of an individual. When we take away the eloquent arguments, the twisting of some Scripture, and the disregard of other very clear Scripture, all we have left is foolish pride.
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:43-48 AV)
Jesus is making a point here with some very strong language, but we don’t have to literally cut off our hands and feet or pluck out our eyes. Our hands and feet allow us to work, play, travel, and much more. In short, they allow us to implement many of the decisions we make and to fulfill many of our wishes. We can choose to use or not to use them in specific ways and for specific tasks and deeds. Our eyes are often passive tools, but we can control what they see to a great degree.
Our hands, feet, and eyes are conduits of our will. If we were to remove any of these deliberately, it would be tantamount to curtailing our own will.
This is the point Jesus is making in the above passages. Without our hands, eyes, and feet, we would be quite helpless, unable to accomplish our will either without extreme difficulty or at all. Jesus commands us, not to amputate our extremities and gouge out our eyes, but to remove our will from the equation of salvation. He is telling us that it is better to go to heaven without a will of our own than to go to hell with it.
Personally, I would rather it be this way. When faced with the prospect of an eternity in hell, I find having free will of absolutely no profit or comfort. It seems infinitely better to be forced into heaven against my will, especially since I would otherwise never make it.
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
All the willingness we can muster is unacceptable to God; the decision to have mercy on us is His alone. If that makes me a puppet or an automaton, then so be it.
“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16)