What does freedom look like in the context of love? What does it look like without love?
My country (USA) celebrated our freedoms as a nation last Saturday (July 4th). We value freedom more than anything else. We were founded on freedom. I love my country and I love my freedoms.
But I have found that freedom without love is not really freedom at all.
Freedom without love in a nation makes its interests more important than those of other nations. It can justify just about any kind of violation, even atrocities…in the name of protecting its freedoms.
Our rights become more important than considering those of others. We protect ourselves out of fear rather than reach out in love.
We may demonize and polarize in the name of freedom, but we will always seek to understand and embrace in the name of love.
I just wonder what a nation would look like that celebrated love as much, if not more, than it celebrated freedom.
Freedom without love in relationships is a horrific battleground of self-centered indifference. It’s manipulative, narcissistic, controlling, demanding, combative and abusive. Freedom without love can hurt very deeply.
True love can only exist between two free people who willingly give up their freedom for the other. It cannot be coerced or demanded. This is the very nature of God’s love.
True love is unconditional, which means it has no conditions. It is freely given at all times and expects nothing in return.
Marriage isn’t about my spouse making me happy, or even that I get my needs met. It’s about me making my spouse happy and seeing that her needs are met. And, as a free person, she is free to reciprocate this kind of love for me. This is where we find true happiness and freedom.
But it also means that I don’t turn off my love based on how she treats me, or disappoints me, or does something I don’t agree with. Again, unconditional love has no conditions.
What does freedom look like in the Kingdom of God? It looks like love.
The primary value in the Kingdom of God is love, because God is love, and out of this prime value comes true freedom.
Within God, we see a continuous, full out, reciprocating, other-centered love between the Father and the Son and Spirit. There is mutual delight. There is wholehearted willingness given without measure to each other…
…and this reciprocating love ripples out to us.
Love looks like Jesus hanging on a cross, looking down at us in our brokenness and shame…
As we are embraced by this Love, it overflows our hearts and ripples out to one other.
God’s grace brings freedom, but you cannot have true grace without love.
The grace that Jesus brings means that there’s nothing I cannot do, everything is legal for me in Christ. There are no laws against grace, nor can the Law bring grace. It can only hinder it and lead me away from grace. I am forgiven and free in Christ.
But this freedom I receive from His grace is based in other-centered love. I am held captive by Love. And this love always thinks of others first, it always does unto others as I would want for myself. Paul says it this way (bold-type added):
“We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.” (1 Cor.10:23-24 GNT)
You cannot have true freedom while bound in the shackles of the Law, or by the shackles of lawless self-indulgence. True freedom can only exist in the context of love.
In this way, I am free in Christ because I am bound by love.
Beloved of God, what would freedom look like if love were our primary value? In our culture? Our cities? Our governments? What would happen if we all “looked out for the interests of others” first, before we talked about our own freedoms…before we defended our own rights?
How does that kind of freedom change how we relate to one another? Our competition? Our self-importance? In our inalienable right to pursue life, liberty and happiness?
Can freedom truly be found apart from love? Selah.
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Gal.5:13-15 MSG)