Our greatest freedom is our God-given right to choose. Sometimes it presents itself as a choice of fifty kinds of spaghetti sauce in the grocery aisle. At other times, it is whether or not to be friends with people we prefer. Still others are the times when we can make career choices. The freedom to love or hate is the most personal of all the choices available to us.
When someone loves us, it is easy for us to love them. The great moral philosophers would call this a “no brainer.” Yet, the natural tendency is to make that decision on a transactional basis. What have you done for me lately comes to mind, doesn’t it? This commercial analysis can be as finite as creating a dollar-for-dollar bookkeeping of investments in the other person and what he or she has returned. It may be an evaluation of feelings given and feelings received. How someone makes us feel is often more important than the monetizing of physical gifts and time spent.
The equation is further complicated by the risk of loving someone without the promise of a returned love. There is great danger in making a commitment. This is why there are so many people who are living together and participating in all the benefits and challenges of relationships without the ultimate commitment of marriage. Someone actually said to me once, “Bob, my dedication to him is actually stronger than a marriage. I can walk away at any time. Each day I choose to stay in the relationship is a rededication.” I looked at her thoughts more as a threat to the other person in the relationship than as a promise of loyalty.
Our relationship with God is not unlike a marriage. He could force us to “love” Him because He is the Creator of the universe and everything in it. That form of love is not what He wants. He gives us the freedom of choice. Chosen love is a love finer than any other. The abusive spouse that has a lock on the family income and demands loyalty and obedience in exchange for food and housing is a very sick person. Whatever love is professed is hardly voluntary. The abuser, because of a complete lack of love knowledge, cannot tell or admit the difference. “Tell me you love me” is not the same as a heart-felt, genuine “I love you.”
Though we are flawed and will remain flawed until our dying breath, God loves us and wants a marriage relationship. He wants it so badly, that He forgives our flaws. He only asks us to acknowledge the gift He has given us. He sent his only Son to the earth to experience our pains and joys, and then to die. It seems strange to ask us to accept a gift of death, but God is known for his unusual approach to our lives. He is not like us. He gives first and then awaits our response. Ever hopeful that we will choose to love Him, He gives without a promise. He commits a vow of marriage to our hearts, saying “I do” before we make our pledge. We are free to complete the pact by saying “I do. I do love you Lord.”