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Recently, I received 2 questions, one via email and one via Facebook messenger, that I thought were great questions, and worth sharing.

L.H asked me via email:

Do we choose God or does God choose us?

This was my answer:
Thanks for asking, and this is a great question! Immediately, John 15:16 comes to mind:
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
The commentary in the Life Application Study Bible for this verse says this:
“Jesus made the first choice – to love and die for us, to invite us to live with him forever. We make the next choice – to accept or reject his offer. Without his choice, we would have no choice to make.”
I think this hits the nail on the head, that it is a two-fold decision. God chooses us, for he desires that no one should perish, as stated in 2 Pet 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
But he also loves us enough to give us the free will to choose to accept or reject his choosing of us. Obviously, he wants us to choose him as well, but loves us enough to accept our answer if we reject him.
You see this in the world as well. Any relationship involves both parties choosing each other. Otherwise, one is forcing the other, and that’s not love, is it?
I hope this makes sense and answers your question.
 Not longer after I got that question, I received this question from a friend via Facebook messenger.
J.T. asked:
Hi mark. I have a 3 theological questions for you. I will earn you in advance these questions are morbid, but they are purely hypothetical. Just something I’ve been wondering about.
If another human being is intent on killing you and you only options is to kill them first or die, is it considered a sin to fight back?
Same situation as first question, but let’s say you know a day in advance that this other person will try to kill you. Assuming no other alternatives, is it a sin to initiate a preemptive attack with the intention of protecting your life?
Same scenario, but now you are a third person observer. You know that person B is going to kill person A. However, if you warn person A about person B intentions, then you place your own life in jeopardy because person B may take action against you for warning person A. Is it a sin for you to just do nothing in this situation?

And here was my answer:

These really aren’t morbid questions as they are moral questions. which is deep stuff. 🙂

Question #1: “If another human being is intent on killing you and you only options is to kill them first or die, is it considered a sin to fight back?”

Answer: I don’t think so. While there are uber pacifists (and I could be considered one of them), I think there are enough examples in the bible of self defense (for example, Ex 22:2-3) that I don’t think that this is a sin.

Ex 22:2-3 says this:

“If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder.But if it happens in daylight, the one who killed the thief is guilty of murder.

“A thief who is caught must pay in full for everything he stole. If he cannot pay, he must be sold as a slave to pay for his theft. [NLT]

My response to J.T. continues:

Question #2: “Same situation as first question, but let’s say you know a day in advance that this other person will try to kill you. Assuming no other alternatives, is it a sin to initiate a preemptive attack with the intention of protecting your life?”

Answer: This is the thing about moral questions. there are some things that are black and white (see the 10 commandments for example). There are others that are gray areas that require a little more depth.

An example of a gray area is a situation like in WW2 where people were hiding and protecting Jews from the Nazis. If they told the truth to the Nazis, then the Jews would be found and murdered. but if they lied to the Nazis, then they would be safe.

There’s even examples of this example in the bible. See Exodus 1, where the midwives lied to Pharoah to protect the lives of the newborns.

So hopefully this explains some of the issue with trying to answer a moral gray area.

In the situation you propose (and hopefully it’s just hypothetical 🙂 ), if all other alternatives have been tried, I don’t think that it would be a sin, As i struggle to answer this, the Book of Esther comes to mind as an example. Not sure if you’ve read it, but in it, Haman puts together a plan to kill not only Mordecai the Jew but all of the Jews in the kingdom on a specific date. Mordecai and Esther and all the Jews fast for 3 days to gain favor with the king. During this time, the favor of Haman is turned, and he is hanged. The king grants them favor to turn the date that everyone would kill them into a day that they get to protect themselves, even pro-actively. However, they had to wait until the right time to do so. They couldn’t just freely do so.

So i think the pre-emptive strike would be actual murder if it was too early. But if there was hard evidence, and it was during the planned time of an attack, then it wouldn’t be a sin. Hopefully this makes sense.

Even if it was determined that it wouldn’t be a sin, you would also have to face the consequences. Law wise, and I’d have to check with my cousin (who is a sheriff), but I think the law might still consider it murder if it was too early, so that’s something else to consider in this scenario.

Question #3: “Same scenario, but now you are a third person observer. You know that person B is going to kill person A. However, if you warn person A about person B intentions, then you place your own life in jeopardy because person B may take action against you for warning person A. Is it a sin for you to just do nothing in this situation?”

Answer: Again, this is sort of a gray area. As with the answer for question #2, I can give a reasonable answer, but that doesn’t mean that the answer is a solid black and white answer.

The only thing that comes to mind with this question in the bible is Ezekiel 3:17-21, when God tells Ezekiel that if he warns someone and they don’t follow it, then the hearer is the one who sins, but if he doesn’t warn someone, then he is the one who sins. However, I should also clarify and admit that, while I think that the examples I gave for answering question 1 and 2 are relevant to those questions, this example isn’t a direct parallel to your question.

Lev 5:1 may be more relevant. From the Message translation: “If you sin by not stepping up and offering yourself as a witness to something you’ve heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing, you’ll be held responsible.”

As Edmund Burke says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I know that I personally would feel incredibly guilty if I was the 3rd observer and didn’t say or do something, and person A was killed because of it. But it also to me boils down to having the courage to speak up. I definitely pray that I would have the courage to speak up in the situation, even though it could be terrifying to do so.

I hope this makes sense.

I do realize that I am only addressing the intellectual aspect of these questions, and it may be worth asking if there is a deeper, emotional reason behind them. (Of course, it also may just be that the reason is intellectual curiosity rather than an emotional aspect, which is totally cool.)

I later clarified this last part over lunch with him and his family. When dealing with moral questions, especially with the problem of evil, there are two sides to the issue: intellectual and emotional. And if you answer an intellectual issue with an emotional response, then you haven’t answered the question. Likewise, if you answer an emotional question with an intellectual response, you haven’t answered the question. He did affirm that his questions were more of an intellectual curiosity rather than any emotional source.

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