One needs to be freed from many things before he is free to really love others. If we do not realize that, we will not love and will too easily abandon the call to love those for whom love is difficult to give.
We have considered that we need to love out of reverence for Christ. Our affection and actions for another are to be rooted not in the other’s worth or value to us, but primarily in our love for Jesus. We have also considered that we can only be freed to love others when we find out value in Christ, and do not base our love upon the performance of the other. (We also had some poetic help from Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)
There is one more thing that I wanted to share on this subject. There are two relationship killers that must be exorcised if we are really going to be free to love:
- Expecting someone to be what they are not and cannot be
- Expecting another to fulfill all our needs
In a marriage relationship, if I focus upon my spouse’s weaknesses and failings, the relationship will never progress and never know any joy. Never. If I expect Barb to be what she by nature is not, I will never, ever, know how to love her. I will be continually critical and disappointed, ready to love her when she finally achieves my level of expectation (which is constantly shifting). If I act this way, I cannot love her as she is, for I am always waiting for her to be what she is not.
Similarly, if Barb looked to me to fulfill all her needs, as some women do with their husbands, she will be grossly disappointed. In many marriages, this disappointment morphs into a deeply critical spirit of judgment as the wife finds herself unfulfilled and blames that on her husband. She will find it impossible to love the one who lets her down simply because her expectations are too great. He may never be able to fulfill the expectations she has placed on him.
These two wrongly adopted expectations are relationship killers because in many relationships, the disappointment they generate lead the disappointed member to look elsewhere for fulfillment.
The same thing applies to the church. I am not saying that there is never room for critique or even at times for leaving. But what I am saying is that these two things should be avoided like the plague: 1) expecting the church to be what it is not and 2) expecting the church to fulfill all one’s needs. The church, like a spouse, will NEVER be able to measure up under such criteria. When men or women leave a church for personal, not theological, issues, at some level, these expectations will be found.
When those things are exorcised, however, love can be unconditional, and one will then be able to pray for and work for change, in a spouse or in a church. Those two expectations pull people apart. Seeing, however, that Christ fulfills all and is all, draws us to others in service. It is Christ alone who frees us to love.