Free Love And Other Redundant Phrases

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We’ve all had that “ah-ha” moment, right, men? The one where you’re baking a meringue, blaring J-Lo, and you suddenly ask yourself, “Does love really not cost a thing?”. Or, ladies, when you’re working out to The Beatles and, right as you reach your personal chin-up record, it hits you that indeed, money CAN’T buy you love. Alright, so maybe those specific moments are unique to me, but I’m sure we’ve all had instances that came out of the blue and caused us to spend some time at our own Roxbury, asking the deep, eternal question: “What is love?” (On a complete side-note, I once walked into a gym full of weight lifters and the radio was blaring “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee-Gees, and it was one of the most surreal moments in my entire life)

Anyway, with a large majority of media being centered on using (and mis-using) the word “love”, it would do us all a world of good to pause for a moment and take stock of how we, as followers and friends of the God Who IS love, define and use it. I’m not referring to things like “I LOVE corduroy” or “I absolutely LOVE Fabio’s performance in Zoolander“; I’m speaking more along the lines of how we use it in relationships and sexuality. (Though, I HAVE met a few extreme types with an unnatural devotion to noisy, grooved trousers.) Considering that Enrique Iglesias’ hit “Tonight (I’m loving you)” is only the edited title (swap “loving” for “f*@#ing”), and the same goes for Akon’s “I’m gonna love you” (swap “love” for….), it seems that we need to find a way to wade through the mire of contradictions and euphemisms and arrive at solid ground. Fortunately, we have just such a path.

In his encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Pope Paul VI gives us what I call a litmus test for finding authentic love, a test comprised of 4 characteristics, generally referred to as the “Four Marks of God’s Love”. These four marks, or signs, are: Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. (Yes, it drives me insane that the “T” ruins the alliteration). This post is the first of four in which I’ll take a stab at giving a brief, cursory explanation of God’s love–and therefore, perfect love–as defined by Humanae Vitae.

Because the very essence of real love is the act of giving (which is why “actions speak louder”), for love to be authentic it must entail a true gift of self on the part of the one who is professing love. However, though our intention might be to love, there are myriad ways in which our struggle with weakness, selfishness, and sin can taint our attempts and chip away at these four marks. As today’s title makes clear, we are first going to address the need for true freedom in love.

We’re all familiar with phrases like “After all I’ve done for you…” or “The least you could do in return is…” or “You owe me this…”. Statements such as these get right to the heart of one enemy of freedom in love, namely that of expectation. Whenever we put on the guise of giving, yet hold within us the expectation of ANY form of reciprocation, then we are not truly giving and, therefore, not truly loving, either. If we clean the house expecting accolades and/or a foot massage, not only do we almost invariably set ourselves up for disappointment, but we also remove true giving from the equation, since the “recipient” is now expected to give something in return. Whenever someone says, “I work all day long to put food on the table, and all I ask is…..”, then all others involved are no longer free to simply receive the gift of food, since there is now, apparently, a contract of sorts in play.

This is even more poignant and relevant in regard to relationships and sex. How many women have felt obligated to “put out” as a result of some guy purchasing dinner and movie tickets? How many marriages are soured by the unwavering, incessant expectation of one spouse exacted upon the other? Conversely, though, I’ll wager we can all remember a moment in our lives when someone simply GAVE to us, and we could clearly tell that nothing was expected in return, be it a parent, a partner, or even a postman. (Ahhh, alliteration)(Plus, my postman has NEVER asked for anything in return for delivering my mail…)

The other primary enemy of freedom in love can be summed up by saying, “If you can’t say no, your yes means nothing.” Whether you’re being pressured into something or you “just can’t say no” to your hormones in the moment, if you feel (or are) unable to say no in any given circumstance, then freedom is lacking and, therefore, so is true love. Regardless of how much someone professes their undying love for you, if you don’t feel free to say no, then they don’t love you, at least not completely; likewise, if you can’t say no to your sexual urges, called “the launch sequence” by Ray Romano, then what you’re feeling towards the other person is not love, it is the force of chemicals, instinct, and attraction. As powerful as desire can feel, if you can’t say no to it, it is merely a powerful slavery. Saying you’re free simply because you give in to desire is like saying a nation is free simply because its citizens don’t resist invading powers; in actuality, behavior of that nature signifies defeat.

So, in the muddle of whims, urges, misconceptions, lies, and pain that we see around us, possibly in our own lives, how in the world are we supposed to find good examples of this free love? Well, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, our perfect example of free love lies in God’s love for us. (4 marks of God’s love) In God’s love for us we see complete freedom. We were created simply because He loves. Each of us was made “for our own sake”, as John Paul II put it. God made you with NO strings attached. He never says, “After all I’ve done for you….” You actually owe Him nothing. His love has already been 100% freely given, whether you accept it or not. Though He longs for intimacy with you, He is in no way disappointed in you, nor is His love diminished, when you don’t feel the same.

Likewise, when He became man in order to suffer and die for us, He showed us what true, free love looks like. Starting from His fervently human prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (“let this cup pass”) to His miraculously divine prayers on Golgotha (“Father, forgive them”), he showed us what freedom looks like by saying no to the urge to run, the desire to flee. He was so free to love you that He could embrace every suffering necessary to gain intimacy with you. His only goal was redemption, not reciprocation.

So, brothers and sisters, let us begin to love freely, without expectation, pressure, or shackles. Let us feed people because they’re hungry, not because they do what we think is right. Let us give our time, treasure, and talent simply to be loving, because everyone is always worth it. Let us crush the bondage of passions we are told to give in to. Let us scrub, clean, and organize our houses simply for the glory of the Lover of our souls. Let us love freely. However, first, let us open our hearts wide to the free, unconditional, expectation-less love of God, for it is only by continually receiving His free gift of love that we learn how to truly and freely love anyone else. (Though, you CAN start by making a Bee-Gees mix disc for the postman…)

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God.  He has been a youth minister for the past 4 years and is currently working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attends Med School there.  He is also writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN.  Since youth ministry and missionary work are his bread-n-butter, there are ZERO normal pics of him for the bio pic. So, what you see is what you get, and what you see is him in a valley of volcanic steam vents.[/author_info] [/author]

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God. He was a youth minister in Duluth, MN, spent 3 years working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attended Med School, and just finished writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN. While on-island, he and his wife adopted three wonderful siblings. He has returned to the States and blogs at Death Before Death and keeps you updated on his family at The Dynamic Davidson Duo.

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16 thoughts on “Free Love And Other Redundant Phrases”

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    Perfect, Ink and Quill. Perfect. (I’m just surprised no one told Pope Paul VI about the inherent frustrations for the English language.)

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    Praise God for your zeal and orthodoxy…and your humor! I love this article and am looking forward to reading the other installments (and perhaps regular posts on Ignitum Today?!)

    I just finished reading both Heaven’s Song and The Love that Satisfies by Christopher West, and, as you can imagine, I could read TOB all day 🙂

    Prayers for you and your ministry efforts!

  4. Avatar

    Thanks, Lori and Richard!!! And Lori, as for regular posts, I’m slotted to write every fourth Friday! She said I can post more often than that, but, at the moment, it seems like it’ll be once a month. Fun, right???? Peace out!

  5. Avatar

    What is God’s “love” for us? Our old priest gave a short definition years ago. God wills good for us, wills us to be good, to be holy and He does everything He can, without violating our freewill, to help us be Holy If we truly love someone, we should will to do everything we can to help them be holy and this means sacrificing our wants and our desires for their benifit, with no expectation of any return other than their holiness. Love is a matter of willing good for them and willing for them to be holy. St. Augustine said, ” to will to love, is to love.”
    God wills us to be holy and to offer to help us be holy and “He can not be thwarted” CCC 275 So everyone will be holy in the end, even those who go to hell for ever and ever and ever. the choice we have is, Do I try to be holy now and therefore maybe get to heaven, or do I wait and make God do it all on His own at my death and then spend all eternity in hell?

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    I have always loved Aquinas’ definition of love as “willing the good of another”. It’s a great litmus test for any situation where I’m questioning what would be truly loving…

    Regarding God’s will for us and our eventual outcome, I think we might differ a teensy bit.

    Scripture is clear that “God is not willing that any should perish” and He gave us His Son that “none might perish, but have everlasting life”; however, we also know that some DO perish and that everlasting death is a very real, and ultimately loving, option. For real, true love to exist, for us to be able to choose the heights of beatitude, then we must also be able to choose eternal death and the depths of depravity and emptiness. He wills that none choose that, but, because real love bears freedom, we still CAN choose it. In much the same way, I lay down my life for my wife to show her love, and also knowing that the best thing for her (relationship-wise) is to stay in our marriage; however, she CAN leave at any time and none of my sacrifices will keep her here with me. She must choose every day.

    Similarly, holiness doesn’t mean “perfect”, it means “set apart”. So, if, in response to God’s free gift of Himself, we choose to set our lives apart for Him, then we attain to the holiness that God wills. However, we CAN spurn His free gift, leave it lying on the ground, and keep our entire lives to ourselves. For eternity. Christ is clear when He says “if you save your life, you will lose it.” His love allows us to choose death.

    Now, I’m sure that wasn’t even the point of your response, but I LOVE back-n-forth dialogue and hashing things out, so I just tossed out a response. Please know that I’m not trying to be argumentative at all, I swear! I just like this theology shtuff. 🙂

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    I was with you right up until the BeeGees mix for the postman. As often as I have cursed the Postal Service, I don’t think I would visit that particular trial even on them.

    All kidding aside, I love the way you brought the concept of slavery vs. freedom down to two or three sentences. I “know” all that, but I could not have articulated it just so without your help. If it came from a document, I haven’t read it yet, so you get the credit!

    thanks for an insightful post. I’ll be using it when I teach TOB this fall with my wife!

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    This is awesome; thanks so much, Nic! Looking at the culture, it’s obvious that there’s such a misunderstanding of true freedom, but there’s also such a hunger for it–your “yes/no” argument and reminder of the 4 marks of love go beyond just religious dialogue and can truly engage people when it comes to what they’re really longing for. I got married about a year ago, and have seen over and over the truth of JPII’s statement that “freedom exists for the sake of love” (it’s a constant, humbling lesson!). It really is amazing when you actually want to give up what you want for another person, and you’re absolutely right that yes means nothing when you don’t put your will into it. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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