Being Loved Is Liberating
In an episode of the television show West Wing (one of my favorites), President Josiah Bartlett has trouble sleeping. Since the insomnia lasts for several days, a psychiatrist is secretly brought in for consultation. After much dialogue and discussion, a salient underlying fact is revealed: the man in the (fictional) Oval Office grew up with a father who “never” loved him. That unsettling truth had been at the heart of the unrelenting drive in Bartlett his adult life – the drive for ongoing accomplishments (education, Nobel Prize winner, governorship, and presidency) that never appeared to satisfy; the drive to get his father to love him (which never usually works) and now will never happen since his father is dead. Most of us have experienced relationships that are lacking in love – from a neighbor, a boss, or even a relative. Around these kinds of people, we tend to find ourselves constantly on edge, walking on egg shells – we are worried that we may have offended them in some way, wondering how they really feel about us, and, at times, working incessantly to try to obtain their love.
The Creator has made us as beings who can love and desire love in return. Love, whether from God or other people, is both a powerful and wonderful thing in our lives. Love can be a liberating and freeing force in our relationships. Let me mention two examples from my own life. I was blessed to grow up in a home where my parents loved me and my siblings. That atmosphere of love was a freeing and powerful factor in my emotional and spiritual development. Another example is the relationship I have with my spouse. In June, Margie and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary! We love each other “like crazy” and our love has grown over the years. Though my actions on occasion have given her reasons to not love me, she still does – and I am grateful! This atmosphere of love is a liberating and wonderful thing in my ongoing development as a man of God, husband, father, and now a grandfather.
The greatest love anyone can experience is the love of God. The scriptures tell us “how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1), “so we know and rely on the love God has for us” (4:16), and that “we love because He first loved us” (4:19). Living in that atmosphere of divine love is a freeing and wonderful force for the child of God, a powerful (and best) motivation for living out the Christian life. Professor Hans Bayer, in his book A Theology of Mark, says it quite well:
We should see [the call to discipleship] as surrender to the love of God. It is surrender to the liberation of truth, to the “exodus” from our own autonomy by embracing the substitutionary atonement of Christ. It is the liberation of the soul through the power of Jesus. Without that liberation, there will not be liberty and strength to live godly lives. It is the love and kindness of God that frees us to surrender. We are not forced into being disciples of Jesus. We surrender to the One who pursues us in sacrificial love, kindness, and deep knowledge of our inner selves. We can trust God’s loving pursuit of us because He does this not merely to show us the weight of our inner lives, but to liberate us from it with the cleansing assurance of His love.