What would life be like if…

●God was the only focus for why people did things?

●all the wonders of creation were viewed with awe?

●all persons respected life as a precious gift?

●all people found ways to praise one another instead of criticize one another?

●all disagreements were handled gracefully?

●all persons made sure one another had enough to eat?

●everyone aided each other following a disaster?

●the color of one’s skin, or the language one spoke made no difference whatsoever?

●all persons treated one another with nothing but respect?

●all persons shunned rudeness?

●all wars were to cease?

Such a worry-free life is what God had in mind, and more, when he created this world. But alas, that utopia was wiped out near the very creation of humanity. One gift God gave to his beloved children was the gift of free choice. And that gift was used to not follow the ways of God, but to seek one’s own pleasures.

Little has changed in the millennia since then. Many people have continued to use their free choice to seek their own pleasures in life. The wonders of creation are exploited for personal gain. Child, spouse and parental abuse continues. Lawsuits are rampant. Greed and selfishness abound. Prejudices for all kinds of reasons flourish. Wars around the world rage on ad nauseam. Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

Well, it is not nearly as bad as all that! Many people have chosen to use their gift of free choice to live in the ways set before them by God in Jesus Christ. They have chosen to focus on the Lord in everything they do. They view creation with awe and wonder. They view life as the precious gift it is.

There are those who praise one another instead of criticize. And when necessary, they provide discipline in order to correct more than punish.

There are those who are color blind, who do not prejudge persons on any basis, who respect others as children of God, who strive for goodness toward all persons.

They follow one of the teachings of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22: “Brothers and sisters, encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”

How about you? Will you exercise your gift of free choice to live in the ways of God rather than the ways of the world?

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.