The Inviolability of Free Will – Ρart I

Βy Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis

“If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me” (Matth. 16, 24).

“Human free will is sacrosanct”. This saying demonstrates the profundity of our moral freedom. The Saviour invites people to follow Him and then leaves us free to decide this most important question for ourselves: to follow Him or turn against the way of God. He came for our salvation but does not encroach on our free will. He invites us to take an active part in our salvation, but does not violate our free will in the slightest. If people were not free and self-determining beings, we would never have deserved such great respect, we’d never have been accorded such great honour, that is to work with Christ the Saviour for our own salvation; nor, of course, would it have been left to our personal inclination, but rather we’d have been led to salvation as passive and inert creatures and would have simply accepted the effect of divine grace, which would have worked exclusively for our redemption. Truly, this is how respected and inviolate God desires our moral freedom to be; how imperious He wants our free will to be.
A study of the history of the redemption of humankind reveals the Son of God, Who became a person in order to save all of us, treading the path to His voluntary passion, bearing the sin of the world, healing our wounds, fulfilling the great mystery of divine dispensation, reconciling us with God and yet in no way infringing our free will. There you are! The gate of Paradise, which had been shut, was opened; the fiery sword which guarded the entrance was removed and the voice of the Lord invited excluded humanity to enter thereby into a place of peace and quiet. But we were left free to enter or not, as we choose.

The Inviolability of Free Will – Ρart I
This freedom, that is to act by choice and to follow His laws, not influenced even by God Himself, demonstrates the absolute nature of our free will, which derives from our moral freedom, our great value, and the high position we occupy in the creation. What great honour is rendered to us by the fact that our free will is inviolate. At the same time, with what clarity are we taught our responsibilities: that we should respect our free will; have fervent zeal; and not allow, under any circumstances, our free will to be enslaved and our moral freedom to become dependent on humiliating passions and desires.

Our moral freedom obliges us to make provision for our salvation, because otherwise we’ll be lost. The formal recognition of our moral freedom by the Saviour Himself teaches us that our salvation is not going to be achieved solely by the absolute action of God’s grace, but also by our own consent and simultaneous action. Concerning this necessity, let’s see what the wise Fathers of the Church have to say. Chrysostom says: Even though grace is grace, it saves only those who desire to be” (Discourse 18 on Romans). Gregory the Theologian stresses that: “Our consent is necessary; but we’ll be saved by God” (Discourse 31). Clement the Alexandrian adds: “God inspires the souls that desire; but if their readiness abandons them, then the very grace which has been given them by God will be denied them”. And Justin concludes: “God did, indeed, make people without their consent, but is unable to save them against their will”. So we are expressly and clearly taught that there are two factors in our salvation: a) the free desire of the human will and b) the grace of God.

The prime agent in the work of our salvation is indeed the grace of God, because Christ the Saviour came as Light to those who were in the dark and shed the light of His Grace on those “dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death”. He sought the lost sheep, called back those who had strayed, spoke secretly to people’s hearts and showed us the way to salvation. It’s the grace of God which perfects and saves, yet our own will should not be accounted of any less importance. We should regard it as the outstanding gem in the crown of our salvation, since it’s the main lever that shifts our outlook that has been rendered inert by sin.

This is what urges our footsteps to follow the Saviour, this is what strengthens our hearts to show self-denial, this is what bears the cross on the shoulder. Because, although grace invites us, dispels the gloom and illumines the dark places, it’s possible nevertheless, due to the carelessness and slothfulness, the contamination and spiritual idleness of the carnal view of life, for our free will to feign deafness, to close its eyes, to remain in darkness and to proceed in exactly the opposite direction: the one to perdition. In other words, our free will can act in total contradiction to what it actually wants. So it’s necessary for us truly to want our salvation, to seek it.

We have to want to hear, in order to hearken to the voice of Him Who is calling us. We need to want to see in order to open our eyes to the brilliant, abundant light. We have to want to move, to follow the Saviour, to refuse to be the people we once were, with our passions and desires, in order to take the cross upon our shoulders. We must follow the “strait and circumscribed road” so that we may pass through the narrow gate of Paradise.

Read here the “The Inviolability of Free Will – Ρart II
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