Love, And Our Expectations For It
By Jonathan Mitchell
Have you heard, or read, the idea that "genuine love requires free will"? Or, that "we must be free to choose to love"? How about, "love is a choice, not a feeling"?
I've heard these thoughts numerous times, over the years, and from one perspective there may be some truth in them. But having recently read the first statement, it set me to wondering: is this true from God's perspective -- from the Scriptures?
Where do these statements about genuine love place the responsibility for love? On us: on our freedom, and on our choice. What is the logical corollary? If we are not loving people, then it's our fault for not choosing to do so! So these seemingly lofty sentiments about love really engender guilt. I had "bought-into" this thinking, having listened to many Christian teachers and preachers repeatedly tell us that this is true. Now I agree that genuine love (agape) is not a feeling or an emotion, and in certain situations those who have been set free by the Son are able to choose love, rather than to be selfish. But we must ask: what is the source of this love, and what is the source of our ability?
The obvious answer is: God. God is love. Love is a production of the Spirit of God (His fruit). So how can we choose to "god" someone? How can we choose to produce God's fruit?
We are able (have power – the same Greek word, "dunamis") by abiding in the Vine. If we, a branch, remain joined to the Vine, then the sap of the vine will be drawn up through the branches, and the life in the sap will produce the fruit of the Vine.
Whom the Son sets free is really free. It is the person dwelling In Christ, in the Spirit, that is able to "god" someone by (changing the metaphor) directing the flow of living water from our innermost being to flood them with His life and love and mercy. We also can only do this by being led of the Spirit, for (changing the metaphor again) the spirit (or Spirit) blows (or, breathes) where He wills... You see, we can only "mercy" the one whom He will "mercy." Dare we say, "we will also harden the one whom He is hardening"?
But here is the problem: knowing that our brothers and sisters in Christ will be known to be His disciples by their love (fruit of the Spirit), in our thinking we begin to expect this from them, and judge them (in our thinking) if they are not manifesting love (agape). I have done this. I have imposed (in my thinking) expectations of love from those who claimed to be a Christian. And the real problem is that I have expected it of "them." And thus, I have judged them. In reality, I have judged God, for no one can come to Him unless he or she be drawn; and no one can abide in Him (the Vine) and walk in His Spirit (spirit) unless it be by His power, His Spirit. It is not of him that wills or of him that runs, but of God Who shows mercy.
Let us drop our expectations; let us leave them there with the "living Sacrifice," which is our reasonable worship, and service to His body.
He is the Source. He is love. Let us sow seeds of love in the barren fields we encounter (even the barren ones within His body); let us water them with kindness, goodness, patience, mercy, and let us let God give the increase of this love. May His power within us enable us to relieve the distress and misery (i.e., show mercy) of those to whom He directs us, and by His Spirit, may we give love (give God), while "expecting nothing (i.e., no love) in return."
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