Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)
Fridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.
Following up on Monday’s post, Natural Consequences, this chapter seems to fit really well with many thoughts recently churning in my heart and mind. It can be so hard to allow freedom toward people we love, especially when it seems obvious that their exercise of that freedom will only lead to hurt. But the greatest love allows the greatest freedom. The Incredible Father in the Prodigal Son story is such a great example of this. I believe it’s truly the heart of our Father.
Let Them Go
hile talking with a friend tonight, I think I realized anew a trait of humanity that does not really mirror our Father. On the surface it is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But I always wonder when our ways are very clearly not His, perhaps we should take a look at our “ways”?
We are obssessed with fixing stuff. When things go wrong in our lives, or the lives of our brothers and sisters, or others who are close to us, we want to do anything we can to help. And why not? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? Don’t we try and do everything we can to fix our lives when something goes wrong?
Perhaps there is the first mistake.
Life is so much about trust, and most often our first response to adversity is not to stop and listen to what God would have us do, but to roll up our sleeves and tackle the issue head on. Sometimes the blow is too devastating for an immediate response, so then we just reel back and lose any sense of forward direction. Again, we are not trusting our Father to be with us, and take us forward—to go with us there.
When someone we know is in trouble, even by their own choice, the response is quite similar. We want to take matters into our own hands and help them get back on the right track. We offer advice, help straighten out bad thinking, admonish them… and all with an urgency brought about by the discomfort we have with suffering.
I am not saying that I am immune to this. I know I do this very thing. It is hard to watch someone whom I love be beaten down by life, or worse yet, by their own persitently bad choices.
But God does. God allows us so much more room than any of us give to each other. The Father let his wild son have his full inheritance, knowing very well that his son would get hurt. This son, whom he later runs to meet, receives the largest welcome-home party imaginable. This after having made horribly pitiful choices, wasting half of his father’s wealth.
And he let him go.
That is crazy love. That is so crazy, I think I get it, and it still doesn’t make sense. It is so hard to let someone suffer. To not step in and fix stuff. But God does not always fix stuff. Sometimes the greater good, the greater freedom and joy can come from the lower depths of our bad choices.
The ultimate freedom was in the son returning to his father after he had finally hit the bottom. That can not have been easy for the Father. He loved his son. But the greatest good is not always in the immediate fix. Sometimes loving someone really means letting them fail.
So, does that mean we allow our brothers and sisters to wallow in sin? Until they completely destroy their lives? No. If a brother is in sin, restore him gently. We ought to encourage each other to live in the light, since we are new creations—the old has gone the new has come. But once we encourage, once we admonish, once we have lovingly confronted someone in a behavior or mindset that will hurt them or others, we must allow them to choose. We can not make their choices for them, even if we try. God does not miss anyone’s poor choices. He knows all things. Nor does he want for anyone to suffer eternal condemnation due to poor choices. Even still, he does not always step in and fix stuff.
The greatest love allows the greatest freedom. True freedom produces the greatest love.
As hard as it may be, sometimes we just have to let them go.