Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Irony of "Free" (TOTB Part VI)

TOTB Resources; TOTB Intro; TOTB Part I; TOTB Part II; TOTB Part III; TOTB Part IV; TOTB Part V

The joy of the truth that Jesus Christ was raised in the body is that we, mere mortals, have a means, a mechanism, by which to enter into the fullness of the love that we were created to experience. Because the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, our mortal bodies are quickened to live a life of wholeness and of fullness (Romans 8:11). The next four posts regarding Theology of the Body will look at how we can mirror the free, total, faithful and fruitful love of God in our bodies.

One of the most ironic words that we encounter in our language is the word free. The irony is not that free always has a catch, because truly, for us, free doesn’t always have a catch. The love of my mom for me is free. I’ve tested it enough to know that it doesn’t have a catch. My mom doesn’t love me because I look or behave a certain way. Her love, as given to me, is truly free.

The irony of the word free is found in the fact that free always has a price tag – it’s just that free means that the price is paid by someone else. My mom’s love for me has a price tag that’s truly expensive – her free gift of love has cost her sleepless nights, hours of listening, hours of counseling, hours of chauffeuring, hours of encouraging. Her love is really very costly – but, when I receive it, it is given to me freely.

I think it could be said that it is for lack of understanding the irony of the word free, that we misinterpret the nature of sexual love as it was created to be. Free love as promoted by the sexual revolution allows me to believe that free means that I can give my body away to a man or woman or myself (it’s my choice) free of emotional entanglements, free of stiff religious prohibition, free of societal norms, free of judgment, free of commitment, free of fear that I will have to raise a child, free of anything but my immediate desire for my own pleasure.

But free always has a cost and someone is paying the cost of our current understanding of free love. We have lived with this active definition of free love long enough to realize that distributing our bodies "freely" eventually has a pricetag that is paid by someone. The cost that society pays for free love is steep. Suffice it to say that the first group of people who pay the price for this misleading definition of free are children. Children conceived from "free" love face historically unprecedented rates of murder before they even take their first breath.

But the problem is not that we have mislabeled love as free. Love is meant to be free. God in Christ taught us this truth.

But the nature of God’s free love is diametrically opposed to the nature of free love as promoted by the sexual revolution. The nature of God’s free love requires that I give freely; the nature of the sexual revolution only requires that I receive freely.

Truly free love between a man and a woman means that a man and a woman will commit to the cost of love, so that they can give love that it truly life-giving. Truly free sexual love means that we learn to cherish a whole person to the point of committing our whole lives to that person before we receive the gift of their body. Dr. Janet E. Smith, professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, calls this truly free love natural sex. She says, “We have very few people in this world who have an experience of what I want to call natural sex. Natural sex is the sex that a man and a woman have with each other when they are in love with each other, when they’ve made a commitment to each other and they’re open to having children with each other. That’s natural sex. It’s really incredible and wonderful sex. Those who have that will testify that it’s way better than any other kind of sex.”

The irony of free thus continues – they who give the most costly love will find love to be most free.