Freedom to Love

This morning I was reading a sermon by 16th century pastor Huldrych Zwingli about Christian freedom regarding Old Testament dietary laws. Zwingli’s sermon, 30 pages long, outlines every conceivable argument for his position of freedom. It’s actually quite an engaging sermon considering that it’s almost 400 years old.

Pondering his words didn’t cause me to change my diet, though any one who has seen me lately wouldn’t dare argue that a diet wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me to consider. Notwithstanding my waistline, the sermon caused me to think about other ways in which Christ sets us free from ancient norms and rituals. In Christ, we are free from the ancient animal sacrifices; we are free from living in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles; we are free from laws that declare us unclean if we touch a dead body or get a rash: many of these laws were intended as safety measures at a time in which hygienic practice and antibiotics for disease were unavailable. I would guess that we take much of this for granted.

As I ponder all of the freedom that is ours in Christ, I am brought back to the most profound gift of freedom—loving others. Through his life and ministry, Jesus teaches us that we are not just called to love; we are set free to love.

The foundation for our love for others is Christ’s love for us. We are hesitant to love others because we are afraid to give away what we may not get back, so we hang on to a portion of our love. We find it difficult to love with all of our being because we are skeptical about being loved in return. Christ removes this fear: he loves us without reservation, without condition, without restriction. Christ loves us fully, completely and perfectly…no matter what we do or say. Unlike our love for and from others, his love is in no way conditional. He does not wait to love us until he experiences our love for him; he always initiates love—actually, he is the author of love.

Loving freely, however, has another side as well. To be free to love means that we mimic Christ’s love for us by loving others without reservation. Because Christ loves us, we can love first; because Christ loves us, we can love holding nothing back; because Christ loves, we can love people who hurt us and heal us, who embrace us and shun us, who want to be our friend and who want to be our enemy, who agree with us and who disagree with us. We are free to love even when we know our love won’t be returned in kind. We are free to love as servants even though we are certain that we ought to be treated as royalty. We are free to love despite knowing that our risk-taking love will probably end up in pain and heartache as it does for Christ.

Sometimes freedom is more frightening than confinement. But freedom in Christ is a great gift of God. Because we know that Christ loves us unconditionally and without reservation, we are free to love everyone…regardless. Now, may God give us grace to want him to set us free.