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God's Will and Free Will
By Sue Liskowski

Our Women's ministry, led by Michaelyn Sloan and Linda Kopulos, hosted a retreat on Saturday, February 7, 2004. Women from our parish, as well as several other local churches, began the day with fellowship over coffee and rolls. Then we got down to the serious business of discussing our theme of the day: God's Will/Free Will.

We were graced with the presence of two speakers who clearly put a lot of time into researching the topic. In case you are not a woman, or could not ttend, here is a summary of some of what was discussed.

First up was Cindy Bastounes-Wierzba, who is working on a Master of Divinity degree from St. Vladimir's Seminary. The second speaker was Helen Jonas, who has a Master of Divinity degree from Holy Cross Seminary.

The presentation began with a clarification of the topic. Free will was defined as the ability to choose between good and evil. It brings up the question: Can a human being's free will thwart the will of God?

To answer this question, Cindy led us back to the Old Testament. We learned that man's distrust in God was what angered God in the Old Testament. The following reasons were outlined:

It's an affront to the absolute goodness of His character. He hates it when we don't trust Him. It means we doubt His absolute goodness. We distrust the eternal knowledge of God, as if we know better than Him. This was Satan's strategy against God, to pervert His will.

Why did God create us when He knows that we will disobey and mistrust Him? What is the use of our free will?

Maybe even God's will isn't free...Out of nothing, God created us, of His own free will. If nothing compelled God to create us, what made Him do it? The answer is Love. Love is freedom itself... everlasting, unconditional.

The fruit of God's will is love. Creation cannot be separate from God's love. The relationship between our will and God's will is love, our bowing to His will. By His love He is sanctifying and transforming our creation in anticipation of His kingdom.

We are commanded not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in God instead. In Eden man lost his ability to trust in God and discern evil. God set boundaries on Adam and Eve's freedom, for their own good.

Sin is the misuse of that which is Good - it has no substance of its own, just as darkness is the absence of light. Sin does not exist in nature, apart from free will. Evil resides in our choice to reject the light.

Why do I do what I don't want to do?

The knowledge of good and evil infected us. We lost the freedom to trust in God. God's will is always good, in the hope that creation would be free from self-centeredness, and free to love God.

Helen Jonas, the second speaker, focused on the Beatitudes.

She said that each Beatitude is related to an attitude that is important in how we live our lives.

There are attitudes that allow us to become partakers of the divine nature. Attitude is a state of mind. It is not earthly, it comes from God as a gift from Him through our constant communion with Him as we strive for Theosis. The more we live according to His will, what happens outside of our control doesn't bother us so much.

A total change of mind and heart: Repentance means we receive a new attitude. We recognize what is sinful, acknowledge our need for the Savior and surrender our control to Him.

The Beatitudes are a description of the attitudes of those who will receive His kingdom. The blessedness of the Beatitudes is the happiness of those who experience God's presence - His reign in the world to come. To be blessed you have to use what God gives you for doing His work.

Some examples of the attitudes manifested in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: Humble, conscious of sins and dependence on God.

Blessed are those who mourn: We mourn over our sins and the sins of others. We are dependent on God to forgive and heal.

Blessed are the meek: Not weak, but humble, gentle and tolerant when dealing with others.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: Once we receive Christ, we are satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful: God wants us to forgive one another and ask for mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: Your intention must be pure and genuine. Instead of chasing earthly success, be concerned with salvation.

Blessed are the peacemakers: Those who want God's will to be done, and are in accord. By your presence, by your attitude, people can be brought to God.

After a break for lunch, we came together again for interactive discussion. The topic was very complicated, but the discussion was lively and thought provoking. In the end, it was concluded that God does not will evil. Because of His great love for us, humans were given free will, which is the ability to choose good or evil. He wants us to win the battle, and choose good. But because God is sovereign, all-powerful, and purely good, He will use evil as an instrument for goodness.

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