This may very well be an age old question. Many wonder what the difference is.
I find it very interesting that the Bible speaks about a choice in the first few pages when God’s creating. In the Book of Genesis, Chapter two, Verse nine, God creates all the trees, including the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then man, called Adam, is created and God quickly offers the law of the land; God’s commandant. God tells Adam that he may eat of any tree of the garden with one, and only one exception. He commands Adam that he may not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God also offers the consequence for breaking this commandment or rule. (Genesis 2: 9-17)
God places this tree within the garden, within reach of the man. God is the great creator, the all-powerful. He could have removed this tree or planted it elsewhere so that the man would not be tempted but God chose to plant it within Adam’s reach. That right there is what you call an option, and a choice.
Choice is about having freewill. God gave Adam and Eve and all living things in his kingdom freewill. If one has no freewill or no choice, then wouldn’t that be similar as one being a slave? A slave can take on all sorts of forms. A spouse could be a slave, a child could be a slave, a gender could be a slave, a race could be a slave, and a religion could be a slave. And in my opinion, the master of any slave is not expressing love but rather control and power along with human domination and supremacy.
God is a loving God. Right from the beginning, when God created man and woman, He created them out of love, to be loved, and to love and live freely. He loved them so much that He gave them freewill. Unless anyone has ever experienced a form of slavery or oppression, which personally, I have not, we may not truly understand or appreciate this precious and very generous gift.
Now with freewill, comes an option or a choice, a responsibility, and possibly, a consequence. Adam and Eve only have one rule by which to live by. Do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Compared to the rules and regulations we have today, this one rule seems fair enough, wouldn’t you agree?
So the story moves on and now the serpent enters the pages and he whispers to Eve. And apparently the serpent has the same freewill as Adam and Eve. We know this because when God learns of the choice made by Adam, and then unravels the whole story and discovers the turn of events that caused His commandment to be broken, God begins to disperse His punishment to ALL THREE beings. Even though the serpent didn’t eat the fruit of the tree, he is still subject to punishment, just the same as Adam and Eve.
When reading this scripture of this story of that time and place, I find it interesting that the author does not ever mention a mistake. Adam, Eve and the serpent each made a clear choice, not a mistake. They were aware of what they were doing and what the options were. God makes it very clear to Adam that he broke His commandment. God lets each one of them know that a choice was made, God’s commandment was broken and a consequence is distributed appropriately to each being.
A mistake is something we do unknowingly, by accident. A choice is the power of choosing. A mistake is when we did not intentionally choose the action. A choice however, is an option that has presented itself and a choice was made. Forgiving someone for a choice they made may be more difficult than forgiving someone for a mistake they made.
To provide an example to this concept, let me share this story.
I was raised Catholic. During Lent, Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday between those two dates. Considering I ate meat nearly every other day of year except during this time, I sometimes forgot. I was informed that if I truly forgot, than that was okay because I did not intentionally choose to eat the meat.
Now let’s take it one step further, from making a mistake, to making a choice. One time, I was eating a hamburger on a Friday during lent and halfway through the hamburger I remembered that it was lent. I now had a choice to make. I could swallow my food and finish the rest of my hamburger or I could discard the remaining food in honor of my Catholic Lent tradition: my choice.
Now, in the bible, we know God did forgive Adam and Eve and even the serpent. How do we know this? First of all, God did not terminate Adam or allow him to die as He had previously informed Adam would be the result of this action. Instead, God gives each of them their punishment. Then He clothes Adam and Eve before sending them out of the garden and into the world. Those of us who are parents understand this gesture. If we did not love or forgive our children, we wouldn’t provide anything for them. God seems to know their needs before they even know their needs. And isn’t that still true today. God knows our every need.
We are responsible for our choices and we may endure consequences that we would rather not experience but the quicker we own up to our choices, not mistakes, we take responsibility. When we take ownership of our choice, good or bad, right or wrong, we begin to learn and grow. And just as Adam and Eve were guided out to explore their new path, we, too can move forward from any limitations or poor choices and continue on our path of enlightenment.
Thank you, God, for loving us, for providing, for forgiving and most importantly, for giving us the gift of freewill and choice.