God values freedom before He values virtue.

If He valued virtue before freedom, God could have created a robot without the capacity to dissent, disagree, or disobey – or even think – that would have no choice but to do His will, to do good, to perform virtuous deeds.  Instead, God made humanity with the capacity to choose obedience or disobedience.  He made us free.

This is the world Moses depicts in the opening chapters of Genesis, chapters recorded to inform the ancient Israelites, freed from Egyptian domination, how they were to view life in the world.  God desires virtue, but He has given us the freedom to choose.  

To speak in merely human terms, God felt it was well worth the risk of our doing evil to give us the magnanimous gift of freedom.  

Choosing evil is evil, but the freedom to be able to choose to do evil is a good.

I believe this truth – and this order of truths:  freedom before virtue – must be foundational to our understanding of navigating division.

As Christians, and perhaps just as human beings, we have an almost instinctive belief that goodness must always be our first consideration.
We feel it is crucially important that we seek goodness.
It is crucially important, and we should do so.
But not at the expense of freedom to choose, not at the expense of liberty.
The first good to be sought is freedom.

If we place goodness before freedom, then it is right to give goodness priority -- even if that means forcing people to do good.  And many people believe that is right.  Forcing others to do good sounds right.  It sounds like goodness.  Forcing virtue sounds virtuous.  

Is it?  Or is this one of those ways that seem right to a man but end up bringing death and ruination?  Is this one of those places that we think our gut reaction is clearly the way God thinks, when in fact it may be one of those places where our thoughts are not His thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways?

In blogs in days to come, I’ll try to connect this concept to navigating division…