Whether it be a micro-managing boss, an overprotective or demanding parent, a nagging spouse, a clingy friend, or your child who knows just what buttons to push with you, nobody appreciates these kinds of people who attempt to control our lives. This is often the reason for “teenage rebellion” – the desire to break free of parents’ controlling influence. They are becoming increasingly self-sufficient and begin to realize the limitations of their parents’ power to enforce the rules. Often, however, we may also respond by trying to exert our own control over others. We are blinded by an overestimation of ourselves and forget that freedom is not just beneficial for me but is necessary for everyone.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” -Galatians 5.1
Pause and consider this: does God force us to love him? In fact, does he force us to do anything? Absolutely not! We, as Christians, should understand that God is neither one who can be manipulated by us nor does he attempt to manipulate us ourselves. You can’t trick God into doing what you want him to do. Neither is he obligated to perform exactly to your expectations or desires or cater to your every need. God loves us more than we will ever completely understand but he can’t – and won’t! – be controlled by us.
There is much debate regarding the concepts of free will and the sovereignty of God. We’ll save that for another discussion, but I will point out that those who believe in any amount of human autonomy (free will) will often support their argument by pointing out that God did not create us to be robots – who would automatically respond to him in the way he “programmed” us – but he designed us to be choice-makers – those who can freely make decisions, even if those decisions are not what he wants to happen. This was because only in freedom can true love exist. We readily may concede this point when it comes to our dealings with God, but it rarely trickles down into the context of our everyday relationships with our spouse, family, coworkers, and friends. God calls us to treat others in the same way he treats us – with grace, love, and freedom.
Rather than attempt to control others through manipulation, deceit, guilt, force, etc. we are called to a lifestyle of self-control. This is actually one of the results of a Spirit-controlled life (Gal 3.23), an intended lesson learned from grace (Tit 2.11-12) and a mark of maturity (I Tim 2.9;3.2; Tit 2.2,5-6).
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” -I Corinthians 9.27
Giving others the same freedom that we have been given by God can be scary to most of us. We can’t be sure that our spouse will love us, or our kids will do the right thing, or our friends will care about us. We must be rooted in God’s love for us that allows us to make the wrong choices many times even if it causes us and him pain because love is annulled in an atmosphere of fear but truly expressed in the context of freedom.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” -I John 4.18a