We have, through the love of God for us, the grace to choose freely to love him. If we choose instead some lesser good at the expense of loving God, if we sin, we do that too of our own free choice, but there is no such thing as an anti-grace, an inspiration of God, by which we choose evil. When we sin it is entirely our choice of something instead of God’s friendship. To come to God’s friendship in Christ is to choose a good, the greatest good and the greatest good for us; and the creative and gracious power of God is in us as we freely make this choice. It is both our free work and God’s work.
To do good is to choose the highest good; but to fail to do this, to sin, is not to choose evil. Nobody chooses evil, it cannot be done. When we sin what we do is choose some trivial good at the expense of choosing God’s friendship. Sin is sin not because of the thing we positively choose: the human satisfaction, the pleasure of the power. It is sin because of what we fail to choose, what we sacrifice for the sake of a minor good. Sin is sin because we have opted not to grow up to our flourishing, our happiness which is life in God’s love and friendship. To say that people sin is to report what they have not done, what they have freely chosen not to do—freely choosing not to be just and kind, because they have opted for a trivial good like wealth or whatever. And what is not done, what is not there, is not the work of God. The fly buzzing on the ceiling is the work of God, but the elephant which is not behind me is not the work of God. The sinner’s failure to choose happiness is just that—a failure, a not-doing, and this not-doing is not the work of God. The only thing there is the sinner’s own failure. Sin and hell, because they are failures, absences, undoings, are the only things that are uniquely and solely the work of human choice with which God has nothing whatever to do. They are purely and simply the result of private enterprise and initiative.
But we have to work very hard indeed to achieve such private enterprise. It is a difficult thing to reject the gift of God who is so deeply in love with us. It is difficult to harden our hearts against such love. Again and again God brings us the grace of contrition for our sin; again and again we refuse him as he humbly begs us to come back to him. It is very hard to hold out for a lifetime against such love; and perhaps nobody ever does. It is not hard, though it is always painful, to relax and to let ourselves be led by God’s love towards our happiness, to play our part in the predestinate plan of God, to go with Christ and in Christ into divinity itself, into the love which will be our joy and delight in eternity.