Day 16: “Free to Love”
Have you ever felt like someone was just loving you in order to get something from you? Have you ever used love to try and get something from someone else? How does God love us and how does He ask us to love Him and others?
“God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” – 1 John 4:9–11
Real love… That is the only thing that can produce real Shalom in your life and in your community. There’s “fake shalom” everywhere because there’s fake love everywhere. How do you know if it’s fake love or real? You know it’s real love if it’s free love. That means it’s love that costs you nothing… love that doesn’t have strings attached to it. Love that isn’t codependent on you doing something, or paying something…
Free love is impossible for us to generate with our flesh. Our flesh naturally generates codependent love that says, “I’ll give you ‘love’ if you give me ‘love.’” Codependent love only chooses to love someone in order to keep getting something from them we think we have to have in order to survive. Codependent love keeps people trapped in their abusive relationship with their significant other, or unable to break away from manipulative friendships or family members. Codependent love treats God like Santa Claus, believing He owes you blessing when you are nice, but gives you suffering in your life like “coal in your stocking” for your naughtiness.
Henri Nouwen writes this:
“A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support. When you know yourself as fully loved, you will be able to give according to the other’s capacity to receive, and you will be able to receive according to the other’s capacity to give. You will be grateful for what is given to you without clinging to it, and joyful for what you can give without bragging about it. You will be a free person, free to love.”
Where can that freedom to really love God and other human beings come from? It has to come from God Himself, who is in His very nature, love (1 John 4:7). He is not codependent on us to love Him, because He is all-sufficient in Himself; He is so full of love within His triune nature that He doesn’t need to “give” anything to us in order to “get” anything from us. Our love toward Him isn’t necessary for His meaning and purpose. Wherever His presence is, there cannot help but be Shalom, since He is never entering into any relationship with a hint of codependency. All the love He gives is real, no-strings-attached love, that will never fluctuate based on how well we love Him back. Even in our disobedience toward Him as our King, the love He has for us as our Father doesn’t change (Psalm 136; 1 John 3:1). He demonstrates His real love for us in that while we were yet sinners, in fact, even His very enemies (Colossians 1:21), Christ unconditionally laid down His life for us (Romans 5:8).
As our hearts are receiving the reality of our belovedness, and as we rest in the love which is offered freely in Christ, our love inevitably overflows to others. “We love because He first loved us.” He is the source of all real love, and only in Him are we now free to love others without needing to try and get something from them. When all of the fullness in our soul is from drinking from the fountain of God’s real love, “our cup overflows” and the love of God that has filled us full cannot help but lead to us loving others freely without demanding anything from them. In Christ, we can give and receive from others with no strings attached, and the result of God’s love in us will be nothing-broken-nothing-missing peace all around us.
1. Take some time to get honest with yourself about the relationship you have with God. Have you treated Him more like Santa than like a heavenly Father who calls you beloved regardless of how you behave? How do you use God to try and get “earthly blessings” instead of resting in the fullness of His real love for you and letting that blessing be the ultimate blessing that fills you up and from which all other blessings flow?
2. List out people in your life you have unhealthy codependent relationships with. How are you demanding them to “give” you something or fill some void in your life that only the love of God can fill? How are you pressuring them to meet some need you feel you have to have met in order to have Shalom? What are ways that you are enabling codependency in others through unhealthy “strings-attached love” you keep “giving” them that demands something in return?
3. Read 1 John 4:1-21 and write out the aspects of God’s real, no-strings-attached love for you that captures your heart. Rest in your belovedness as you read this truth and let it fill you up and overflow to others, especially those who are hard to love right now, who might still be stuck in unhealthy codependency toward you. With a heart of gratefulness and compassion, pray for those who are in bondage to the fake codependent love this world keeps trying to swindle us with, and ask that the Spirit of the living God would reveal the love of the Father manifested in Christ to their hearts and set them free. Ask God to show you the ways you can love them to the capacity they are able to receive it, and in faith step out and do it!