God is the inventor of free will. He doesn’t force man to love Him, or obey Him, or respect Him. He could, but He doesn’t. Because He desires sincere devotion as opposed to forced submission. He knows that Forced respect isn’t respect at all; Forced love isn’t love in the least; Forced allegiance is a far cry from loyalty, and Forced religion is bad faith. So He doesn’t force it. To make the point, let’s look at some of His history:
Why would He place the first man and woman in His created Paradise, but place one particular tree off limits? To facilitate free will. Without the tree of life, their obedience would be nothing more than lack of choice. That’s not what He designed.
In the old stories of Daniel, who was forcing what? King Darius, upon the insistence of his sub-rulers who despised Daniel, issued a decree that any worship should be directed to Darius. This is something God didn’t and doesn’t do. Daniel didn’t follow the decree, and as the story goes in Daniel 6, ended up in the Lion’s Den to be dinner, but God saved him. Even afterward, when Daniel was freed, God’s power was shown, and Darius had seen the instigators of this travesty crushed in the lion’s den, it was still not Daniel or God, but Darius, who ordered people to worship Jehovah. Because God knows, and Daniel knew, what Darius, Constantine (look it up), and some modern authorities don’t get: forced worship is not true worship.
47 times in the Old Testament Yahweh exclaims how He wants to be our God, and He wants us to be His people. He longs for that relationship just as Christ longed for the companionship of His apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He didn’t force it as the Father or as the Son.
Let’s look at Christ, the incarnate Jehovah, a little more closely: Just preceding the beginning of His ministry was a time of temptation. It is found in Matt. 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4. Here we find that Jesus knew the futility of demanding rightful worship from His tempter, Satan, and so He didn’t. But Satan tried to bribe worship. (Interestingly, this all happened just up the ridge from Jericho, where Jesus met Zacchaeus, and just across the valley from where Moses first looked out upon the Promised Land.)
In Luke 17, Christ healed ten lepers. He neither demanded them to acknowledge who He was beforehand, nor even demanded they thank Him afterward. Because that is not His character.
If God was a god of forced acknowledgement, respect, obedience, or worship, how might have the scene in Jerusalem with the crowd that chose Barabbas played out differently? In John 19, a group of Israelites (“I will be their God and they will be my people” x 47) demanded the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. On the stone pavement – John 19:13 – pictured at left, (I took the photo in Jerusalem at the spot accepted as the place of trial) His blood was filling in the cracks as He heard His people choose another. The mental/emotional anguish was certainly greater than the physical, but He refused, even under those circumstances, to force himself on people who weren’t interested.
I submit that there is a pattern here. In Matthew 10, Christ Himself addressed this point:
14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
He does not direct us to insist, force, aggressively persuade, or even ridicule, taunt, or belittle those who don’t accept the message or agree with our belief. He directs us to let them be. But historically, Christians haven’t done that.