Every now and then a slogan comes along that sticks in our heads; one that so sums up an aspiration or idea that it becomes a part of the culture.
Just do it.
Where’s the beef?
Each of these entered our culture as catch-phrases for so much more than a way of selling footwear, or milk or hamburgers. To write such a phrase takes a certain amount of skill but also a certain amount of luck as well.
This morning we have a slogan, of sorts, in our Old Testament reading. After more than 29 chapters of Moses recalling Israel’s history and the laws given to them by God, Moses sums it all up with a clear choice.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live….”
This is the source of, to the best of my knowledge, the only passage of Scripture to be quoted on a Florida license tag. It is a brilliant summation of what faces the Israelites as they, at long last, prepare to enter the Promised Land and possess it.
This passage has given us a very pithy and succinct slogan:
But it is not the product of skillful marketing. I am certain Moses did not consult with advertising executives and focus groups. Instead, through divine inspiration, he offered the Israelites a choice. “Choose life,” Moses said.
It is interesting to note that he did not say, “Make a decision for life.” He could have, but he didn’t. Which led me to wonder why he didn’t.
While writing this sermon I consulted 25 different English translations of the Bible and looked up how often the word choice appears compared with the word decision. I wasn’t terribly stunned to discover that the Bible uses the word choice more often. But I was stunned to discover how much more often it does.
You are about 400% more likely to find the word choice in the Bible than decision. I find this interesting, especially in light of the focus so many Christians have in their evangelistic message. So many of our brothers and sisters in Christ stress the importance of “making a decision for Christ.”
I do not want to question their sincerity and neither do I want to belittle the importance of such a decision. Yes, we are each called to decide who Christ is and whether we fill follow him. But once we have made that decision we must make choices.
What a comfort. And what innate wisdom there is in the fact that the Bible speaks of choices so often and about decisions so rarely because the life of faith is truly about choosing wisely, faithfully, and continually.
Once we have decided to follow Christ we will be called to make choices. We will be called to choose how we will treat others, how we will treat ourselves, how we will express our faith in thousands of myriad ways.
Choices are where the rubber hits the road to quote another slogan. Choices are when we weigh our options and our commitments and priorities and aspirations and even our callings.
The life of faith is about a single decision: whom shall you live for? But once that decision is made, the life of faith is about an infinite number of choices: how will you live out your decision?
There is a great challenge in this reality but, like so much of the spiritual life, where there is challenge there is also hope. There is hope in a life of choice.
We make wrong choices from time to time. We even make poor choices from time to time. But be heartened and do not be afraid because each choice we make in our life of faith, whether large or small, follows on a decision to follow Christ.
We may make poor choices but we follow a forgiving and healing Lord. We may make choices that we deeply regret but there is no hope deeper than that which tells us that Christ will never regret his choice to give his life for us.
When we decide to follow Christ we enter into his decision for us. The life of faith is a peculiar endeavor. It is a serious undertaking but one so serious and so eternal that much of what seems important is trivial. That is why the life of faith is about our choices rather than our decisions.
The Bible is not big on decisions because God is not looking for a single moment from us. The Bible is big on choices because God is not seeking a business deal. God he is seeking our hearts and minds and souls and spirits. God is seeking a life of shared love and faith.
You cannot make a decision to live. But you can make choices how to live.
© 2020, Tom Thoeni