“Love… rejoices with the truth…” (1 Cor 13:6)
I cannot love the way God loves until I fully see and embrace the other. I cannot fully embrace the other without embracing those things that make him or her fully human, including the free will of the other. When I struggle against the free will in another, the end result is I objectify them. In my mind, in my imagination, they become an object to overcome, rather than a beautiful creature created in the image of an eternal God. When this happens their free will becomes an object of annoyance, frustration, and even anger. I may not immediately identify my issue as being with their free will. “If they would only do this instead of that!” I tell myself. But my language gives me away. I want to bend them to my will.
Indeed I am beginning to realize that all sin against my fellow man has at its root the objectification of those who are created in the image of an eternal God. There has been a lot of discussion about how women become objectified through the sex trade, but this is not the only sin that objectifies beautiful amazing mankind. Let’s take selfish ambition and jealousy for instance, God’s beautiful image becomes nothing more than an obstacle to overcome. The glorious gift of a free will becomes something I need to manipulate to my ends, not something to be respected and honored. Indeed as I have considered, I can not think of a sin that does not involve treating either God or man as an object rather than a Person.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
Loving each other as He loves us means loving the free will in one another. When God finished creating mankind, in which He had placed the glorious gift of a free will, His declaration over His creation was that it was “very good” (Gen 2:31). He said this even knowing the trouble free will would cause.
As Jesus sat at the last supper, it says that “He loved them to the end…” (John 13:1). He loved them knowing that their free will cause them to betray Him, deny Him and abandon Him. He loved them even as the fruit of their free will unfolded in death. Jesus didn’t love all the choices they would make, but He knew this same free will was a beautiful gift placed in each one by the Father, and thus “He loved them to the end”.
Thinking about love and free will in this way has changed the way I see. I have found myself repenting of thoughts and attitudes that heretofore I accepted. I have come to understand in a deeper way what it means to truly love my fellow man. And I have found my heart suddenly full of delight as I gaze on God’s crowning creation, humankind full of the sublime gift of a free will.
“Let us love one another…” (1 John 4:7)