Love is not free

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15).

One of the silliest lines in an old movie (“Love Story”) is the one where a character declares, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Two thoughts come to mind here; the first is that, assuming we’re human, we will make mistakes, and thus need to say, “I’m sorry.” The second is, woe betide the relationship where one partner actually thinks he never errs and so never has to say, “I’m sorry.”

Old hippies will remember the “love is free” slogan. The tragedy is that not even lust is free; it carries heavy consequences emotionally, physically and spiritually.

But true love certainly is not free. It always carries with it obligations. A loving parent nurtures and protects his child; a loving spouse remains true to his marriage partner; a creator provides for our redemption, and continues to guide and help his creatures.

“I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Romans 12:1).

God’s claim on our self sacrifice is always founded on his mercies. The thing that makes our love for God so insipid, so watery weak, is the fact that we don’t see the obligations of love – discipleship, commitment, service, obedience. Thus, our marriages are considered “on probation,” our commitment to a church is contingent upon that church pleasing us (that’s a church’s purpose, isn’t it? To please us?), and our commitment to each other is as thin as some Hollywood actresses’ commitment to virtue.

To claim to love and know God without acknowledging God’s claim upon us is hollow. Worse, it is a blatant contradiction in terms. “Freely you have received,” Jesus declared, “freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

Love was given freely; it wasn’t free.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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