We sometimes mistake control for love. We come into someone’s life with an unconscious or hidden agenda to change them, to move them towards the path of wholeness.
But the business of change, real change, is an inside job. When you assert change, you assume power and when you assume power you assume control and where control is, love cannot thrive.
Control often comes from a place of fear. There is an exasperation that comes when you see someone who isn’t handling life the way you think they should or who doesn’t fit into the box you’ve created for them. Yet trying to change others, to control others, is exhausting and frustrating.
A huge proponent of true love is giving actually someone the space to choose. God Himself actually gives us the option to reject Him. He asks that we, too, commit to the free exchange of love. He does so because our hearts work better when they’re not caught up in neuroticism and paranoia and jealousy and fear.
This is what Paul suggests in Romans 14: that if someone deviates from the script, you do not withhold love. You relinquish control.You give them the space to choose the narrative of their life. You love anyway.
Questions for reflection:
1. It is not wrong to wish and help someone reach their full potential as a person. However if we are not careful, our desire for a person to change can become a condition of our love.
Have you ever used a person’s ability to change as a condition of your love?
Think of specific stories of how you may have done this.
2. In what ways do catch yourself obsessing over the outcomes of some else’s life?
3. What does it mean for us to give each other the space to grow and change?
Romans 14 (The Message)
None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit.
Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
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