Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Love is free
The Scriptures have a good deal to say about love, most famously in Paul's great chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. In Scripture, we learn that love is self-sacrificing and self-denying. It gives and does not demand to receive. The man who walks in love is content with what he has and thankful for what he is given.
In a sense, contentment with God's providence for your life is essential if you're going to be thankful for what God graciously gives you. If you are satisfied with the little that you have, you will be all the more thankful when God provides you with unexpected blessings just as He so often does. Conversely, if you demand and expect much from God and man, you're unlikely to be thankful for what you receive.
When you are accustomed, then, to other people living up to some man-made standard of behavior, whether that standard is based on local custom or on your own private notions, you may find yourself rather disappointed when others fail to attain to your standard. This should not be surprising, because in so doing you've added commandments and precepts to the perfect Law of God. Given that God's Law is in itself impossible for any man to perfectly obey, the addition of even more laws to it will only make perfect obedience even more impossible! What's more, you've robbed yourself and others in two important ways:
- You've robbed yourself of the joy of unexpected blessings and kindnesses on account of your high expectations.
- You've robbed others of the joy of freely giving to you, and forced them to do that which they may well have done willingly.
In my experience, extra-Biblical expectations and demands within a relationship are a certain way to rob both partners of the joy of giving. By forcing me to do this or that for you in order to stop you from complaining, you've robbed me of the joy of voluntarily striving to please you, and you've robbed yourself of the joy of receiving the often unexpected gifts I'd otherwise seek to bring you. When love is mixed with a demanding--that is, an discontent--heart, it becomes a joyless thing, but when it is allowed to give freely, it becomes a delight.
Beloved, let us not scold or upbraid one another when we are disappointed. Instead, let us be content with the little we have, that we may be free to receive even more with joy. Yes, love is a duty to both God and man, but it is a duty that ought to be fulfilled out of a free, willing heart.