1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The first thought that struck me when typing the title of today's devotional was who is more controlling than God?
Much of the world rebels against the very idea of God because they either don't want to or believe they can't live under God's strict rules. I myself felt the commandments and laws were too tall an order and a judgmental God who requires such high standards of obedience was no different than my own dad with his impossible expectations.
When contemplating life as a true Christian all I could envision was nothing more than rules and restrictions. This is my life I thought, and I'm not surrendering it to anyone or anything.
There is however an important distinction missed in that line of thinking and it is a critical point that speaks to the heart of what I believe God is showing us here. God is love, therefore He must abide by His own definition of love.
God does not "insist on His own way".
Our pure and perfect loving Creator gave us the Bible which lays out the ingredients of unconditional love and with that comes the critical component of freedom to make our own mistakes, and in doing so learn from them.
His word, laws and commands are the instructions that if followed to the absolute best of our ability will produce incredible amounts of peace and joy through all of life's circumstances.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
So much of God's message for His children follows this same logical progression; "IF" we want to experience His promises then OUR CHOICE must be obedience. He doesn't force His will on us.
Almost more powerful than the instruction itself is the gift of free will to make our own choices. Reward or rebuke is the outcome of the decisions we make and not related or indicative of how much God loves us. We are the ones that choose joy and freedom in love or prison and pain in selfishness.
We cannot fault God for the pain in our life, for it is the fall of man to sin, the poor choices that we and others make, and the inevitable death of all living things that creates our pain. Buried deep in that pain however is great wisdom for the one who is in relationship with Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, for God can bring purpose and Glory to Himself through all things and in His glory we receive blessings regardless of the circumstances.
Perfect instruction, free will to carry out what we believe to be our best action and then being held accountable through rewards and consequences is how He loves us perfectly.
God models for us how we are to love others and part of that is allowing them the freedom to make their own decisions. We are to come along side as they learn from the pain of their poor decisions and rejoice with them in the rewards of their good decisions.
We are not however supposed to make those decisions for them. We are to simply be patient and kind through the whole process, regardless of success or failure, for any lesson learned either through reward or rebuke is success.
Every person is responsible for living their own life. Can you imagine how God feels at the mistakes we make, how He grieves over the pain that He knows we could avoid if only we made wiser choices, He however does not prevent us from hurting ourselves or others. Many times the pain and rebuke we experience as a result of our actions is what it takes for us to learn the difficult lessons in life. It is how we learn to better love ourselves and others.
Thomas Edison did not fail 99 times in creating the light bulb, he learned 99 ways how not to make a light bulb. Sometimes it takes many wrong turns to find the correct path. So be it. If we can't recognize the wrong path we will never know when we are on the correct path. If we never felt rebuke we would never rejoice in reward.
We are to let the ones we love find their own way. A person will never learn how to swim if we never let go of them. We can lovingly and gently guide others if we are sure of the path, but never force our will on them.
Galatians 6:1 (ESV) Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
There are so many men and women including myself who struggle with healthy boundaries in this area and are driven with the insecure need to place expectations and enforce selfish control over others. Our weapons of control come in many shapes and sizes. For some it is anger & rage, others use guilt as passive manipulation and still others us deceit. Control is one of the highest forms of selfishness, seeking to place others in the roles we require for our own pleasure and misdirected sense of self worth and righteousness.
Even well intentioned people who try to force their grown children, wives, husbands and friends into healthy behavior are doing a disservice to the ones they love. Driven by subconscious motives of preservation we try to force others to live their lives according to our vision instead of lovingly letting them learn how to best live their own lives.
Matthew 7:5 (NKJV) Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
In a small child we must monitor all of their choices and actions closely for their own safety, but as we mature and progress the reigns must be loosened and ultimately released altogether.
No peer relationship should be under a forced emotional or physical control of another. Agreed upon boundaries of acceptable behavior should obviously be in place (no affairs, no workaholism, only 1 day a week out with friends, etc..) however we cannot force another to comply. Forced obedience becomes slavery and creates a resentful heart. We can present how one's behavior may hurt us and hold them accountable for their actions but their choice to continue or not is their own.
We can choose through forgiveness and encouragement to love our husbands and wives and family through all of their brokenness the same way that our Father loves and encourages us through our own brokenness.
Many times we become controlling and manipulative out of fear, a lack of trust that God is sovereign and working in the lives of us and those around us. We fear that if that person makes a mistake they will get hurt, so we try to prevent them from making that mistake. By doing that, they may never learn the lesson God intended for them. We can actually hurt those we love more by protecting them from the lessons of life and God.
If a child never burns their hand in hot water, how will they know what hot water feels like. Does that mean we burn their hand intentionally, of course not. But after explaining to them the dangers and they choose to disregard our warning and burn themselves, we are to empathize with their pain, but thank God for the lesson (hopefully) learned.
Sometimes we ourselves and our loved ones may need to burn ourselves over and over and over. This is painful to experience in our lives and equally sorrowful to watch in those we love, but much like the Lord grieves over our selfish, painful, sinful decisions over and over and over, he allows it for our growth and His glory. Many times we may be asked to do the same in the lives of those we love.
God is patient and waits for us to catch on, and loves us just the same whether we are in a "making mistakes" season or in a "righteous living" season.
A loving person is patient and kind and does not insist on its own way.
God uses our mistakes to sharpen our wisdom. Many times the lessons He teaches through tears are the ones that transform our minds and hearts much more powerfully than never experiencing that pain at all.
Much like God, we are to offer encouragement and direction to those we love, but allow them the respect and freedom to do whatever they choose, and then reward or admonish righteously; not selfishly. We should be humble enough to accept the encouragement and direction that our loved ones offer us as well, for many times they have vision into a dangerous detour we are about to take.
To control another is to place your will above the will of God upon their lives. To demand your way is to potentially derail a wonderful life lesson that can lead to a much greater understanding of God's pure and perfect laws of love. If we saw ourselves as equals struggling together to learn the lessons of love we can be more forgiving and graceful as we mistakenly trample on each others feelings.
God gives us the commandments and laws and teachings to show us how to live and love ourselves, others and Him to the highest degree. We should eagerly seek obedience to all that God commands for in that slavery to the law of love comes the greatest freedoms in the very depths of our soul.
A life of total peace, joy, serenity and purpose awaits all those who will allow the will of God to control the destiny of their lives and the most loving thing we can do for others is urge all those we love (which should be everyone) toward their own personal relationship with Christ.
God's vision for every single life on earth is so much greater than anything we can imagine. We must stop trying to turn the world into something we desire and just get out of the way and let God's will reign supreme.