At the end of Chapter 3, Chan shares with the readers a question that was posed to him while speaking to a group of college students. The question was this: Why would a loving God force me to love Him? When asked to clarify the question, the student said the following: God "threatens me with hell and punishment if I don't begin a relationship with Him." In response to this, Chan readily admits that he wasn't sure how to answer that question at the time. But, once he had time to think about it, he came up with the following response:
"[I]f God is truly the greatest good on this earth, would He be loving us if He didn't draw us toward what is best for us (even if that happens to be Himself)? Doesn't His courting, luring, pushing, calling, and even 'threatening' demonstrate His love? If He didn't do all of that, wouldn't we accuse Him of being unloving in the end, when all things are revealed?" p. 62
By now, you guys know that I'm a big fan of Chan's. But, in my opinion, Chan temporarily lost his sanity here. Since when does God need to coerce us into loving Him, let alone threaten us? I get nauseated just thinking about those two words being put together in the same sentence: threatening and love. You don't demonstrate love by threatening someone. The implication... even through this ill-conceived justification... is dangerous and can lead us to an extremely slippery slope. Not to mention the fact that it totally misses this mark. In the question posed to Chan, the student's premise was all wrong. God doesn't threaten us with hell and punishment if we don't start a relationship with Him... because He doesn't have to. I mean, sure, it's a reality that we all must face... a decision we must make. But what good is threatening us into making this decision. I can very easily say that I believe something with my lips, but know with all certainty, in my heart, that it isn't true. Anyone that has ever been threatened into making a decision understands what I'm saying.
Now... I'll cut Chan a little slack, because I think his intention here was to compare God's "threatening" with that of a parent threatening a child with the consequences of breaking a rule... But, even then, he misses the bigger picture. When I threaten my children, it's because nothing else in my arsenal of tricks is working. In truth, it's out of desperation. God doesn't have to threaten. He's God. There's no bag of tricks, no alternative plans, no desperation. There's just the reality of our free will and the consequences of our decisions.
I just came across this video about 2 minutes ago. I think it falls in line with what I touched on today: God's love for us and the "practicality" of coersion. Plus, it has a really good communion message.