Love Cannot be Forced
(Principle number 1)
God, Being a Gentleman, Does Not Impose Himself on Others
God is love. Love cannot be forced.
This is perhaps the greatest principle of heaven because love must be given freely, without coercion, or it is not love. If someone is forced to love that is more like slavery or bondage or rape.
Think of the example of a young couple who have been courting for some time. She is at the point where she thinks “if he pops the question I will say yes.” Then one day at dinner in a quiet, romantic setting he does. In a moment of hesitation (perhaps just on the principle of not rushing a decision), she says she would like to think about it. He then pulls out a gun, threatening her. “Look I have spent months with you, I have spent all kinds of money on you; you had better marry me.” Would her feelings towards him suddenly change? Would she feel as loved or loving? Can people be pressured into love? No; love, to be love, cannot be forced.
Now think of parents who truly love their children. Often, as they become young adults, still quite inexperienced in the world, they will make some unwise decisions. While they were young children the parents had the responsibility to care for them perhaps even by restricting their freedom to do whatever they wanted in order to protect them. But as they mature and take on responsibility for making their own decisions, the parents have to, in love, let go and give them freedom. If they don’t, they would not be seen as (and, in fact, would not be) loving. Parents have to release children to make their own decisions.
We have also learned to respect the space and privacy of others. It would be considered quite impolite and rude to impose your presence on others when it is not desired or wanted.
God, being the gentleman that He is, does not impose His presence or influence where it is not desired. That would not be consistent with a character of love. He respects our right to make our own decisions and He certainly does not force love.
It turns out that there are a great number of examples in scripture that show God following this principle. Biblically, there is even a word for it. Surprisingly, that word, in many cases, is “wrath” which we would normally associate with great, even-uncontrolled anger. However, in God’s case, it really has a meaning more like that of a sad withdrawal. Because word meanings have changed over time and especially because Satan has done all He can to obscure our understanding of God’s character, it has come to have a different meaning.
Here, to illustrate, is an example, which follows a common pattern, from a long list available at: https://characterofgod.org/wrath-of-god/.
“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us;, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” (Deut 31:17-18)
This verse uses the similar word “anger” translated from a Hebrew word that is also often translated as “wrath.” From this, we can see God accommodating the Israelite’s choice to turn to other gods. He, with great regret, respects their free-will choice and does not impose Himself upon them. Having rejected God, His presence and protection, they are subject to the troubles that come upon them.
We can also ask: “how did Jesus react; what were His emotions in circumstances of rejection?” One example comes from the event of His entry into Jerusalem shortly before His death. Although the crowd was cheering for Him, He knew how fickle they were, He knew that He was about to cleanse the temple and that in a few days He would be rejected and crucified.
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,” (Luke 19:41)
There was no retributive anger in Him. His thoughts were more like:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37)
Here are many more examples of the use of this pattern, where the color coding is also explained.
While the Bible does not say in so many words “when God’s presence is not desired, He leaves,” we can reasonably conclude that He does not impose His presence or influence when it is not desired based on:
- the fact that God is love and the principle that love cannot be forced.
- the many examples in scripture demonstrating the results of their turning from God.
Of course, expressions that sound like He is leaving just means He does not impose His influence, protection etc. It does not mean He goes somewhere else and then can’t see or know what is going on. It is more like we would back off giving advice to someone who has clearly indicated they don’t want it. And He does it sorrowing for His wayward children.
Dr. Ron MacDonald
December 17, 2017 @ 10:24 pm
This is a crucial aspect that is usually not even taught in major Christian schools and Universities. God defined LOVE in such a way that He even submitted Himself to it. Even knowing that many of the angels that He would create and Lucifer would rebel and fall, Father still created them and humanity in LOVE. The Old Testament book “Song of Solomon” has this theme within it.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:55 am
Excellent explanation of how love is supposed to work. Thanks Ray.
October 31, 2019 @ 2:10 pm
Now I understand the principle of God’s wrath – not anger but not forcing love.
July 20, 2021 @ 4:49 pm
As I read this piece and see Christ weeping over Jerusalem (the world), understanding the resulting consequences of our rejection of Him, drives the point home of how isolating sin is (like a prison). It drives a deep wedge between us and God, hurting Him so deeply that an unwanted separation occurs. Lord have mercy on me a sinner! 🙁 Thank you Ray.