It is important to know what God is truly like if seeking to emulate. If we are made in God’s image, as the Bible advises, this strongly suggests that we can understand and have many of God’s characteristics. Like parent like child! Knowing what a loving earthly parent should be like reveals what a loving heavenly parent is like. Most deep down sense the importance of freedom of beliefs, and it turns out God has the same respect for freedom.
First, we must defend why God is a respecter of freedom in this life and life to come. Only in a free world can authentic relationships develop. True love cannot be forced. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. The God of the Bible surely is not like the God of terrorists who supposedly thinks that controlling or destroying free, moral decisions results in true love. God clearly doesn’t require obedience or God would not allow so much evil in the world.
One may suggest that God respects freedom here on earth, but eventually after death you will die for beliefs you had here on earth. It is important to understand the traditional meaning and understanding of Hell, where you will burn forever after death for not believing in God while on earth, is a fabrication that doesn’t exist in the Bible. Hell, not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words, is an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. As it turns out God is a respecter of freedom in this life and life after death.
Unfortunately, followers of God may not fully understand what God’s true character is regarding freedom. Charles Halton points out that Galileo was threatened with torture and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life because of his views how to interpret Scripture. Only hundreds of years later did the Catholic Church admit Galileo’s conviction was wrong (Genesis: History, Fiction, Or Neither? p.14). It is convicting to learn that theologians such as St. Augustine and Calvin didn’t oppose the execution of those who disagreed with their theology.
But all people regardless of religion should sense in their heart the importance of freedom of beliefs. One hint terrorists are misguided is they don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the evil Roman Empire; Jesus sacrificed His own life to influence others. All should understand that fear-based ideology is wrong. Any religion that is based on control than service is not truly religious. Parents know deep down it is wrong to show conditional love based on a child’s decision if not harming others. What partner shouldn’t know the stance “my way or the highway” is self-centered?
God pursued a friendship rather than demanding obedience in hopes of changing the world for good. Jesus didn’t come to overpower others though He could have. God is wrongly portrayed more as a God of wrath than love in the Bible. God’s wrath or tough love, like human parent love, is only to deter people involved in extreme immoral actions. Some evil can be fought against than with just guns. In the beginning during the radicalization process we can attempt discussions of beliefs. Those who believe in the Creator of the universe must be able to defend how their God believes in the freedom of beliefs and seek to emulate God’s ways for a better world.