Emerging from the Chinese Church

Love: A Freedom to Limit Oneself… | August 12, 2008

I think a continual struggle I’ve been going through is with the aspect of being still in my chinese culture while trying to follow Christ and what He calls us to do through His Word.  The word “Love” has been a challenging piece of vocabulary in my life and I’m sure in many people’s lives.  Especially being chinese, what does “love” means culturally?  When a chinese father (and I don’t mean a westernized father) “loves” a son, does he converse and wraps his son in his arms?  or does it look more like a father who works long hours to support his son in his education?  Maybe love is when a mother sits down on the bed next to her daughter at night to talk about her day?  Or perhaps it looks more like a mother who cooks, cleans and tells her children to do their homework?

I’m sure I’ve only given some of the most basic and superficial questions, but it’s tough…  I’ve struggled with “love” my whole life.  Is the answer to become more westernized?  Love like my western counterparts?  Even to not just my family members, how do I simply “love” others if my notion of “love” has only been understood in a certain light?

***

So I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s “Reasons for God” which is what I compare to a much more readable C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity.  In the chapter “Christianity Is A Straitjacket”, Keller tackles the notion of absolute truth and the postmodern tendency to show it as a way to create power and authority over others.  I don’t really feel like unpacking a lot of what Keller says in this post, but what I am really blown over is Keller’s take on LOVE in the chapter.

“Love.  Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all.  One of the principles of love — either love for a friend or romantic love — is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy.  If you want the “freedoms” of love — the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that is brings — you must limit your freedom in many ways.  You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life.  To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.”

– Tim Keller – Reasons for God

Wow!  that concept alone is probably gonna stir much discussion!  Who wants to give up personal autonomy???  Most people you’d talk to nowadays would attest to love and goodness…  but this kind of love?  a Self-sacrificing love, a love of freedom-loss, a limiting freedom…  this is simply unheard of!

I’ll leave you guys with a bit of sharing of the past while with my family.  My parents have simply been overbearing and wanting me to show respect to them first (as most chinese parents would want).  There is never an attempt to drop their pride or to have a chat with me to “clear things up”.  I’ve realized that more and more, to love my parents, I have had to give up my “freedom” even when I know I’m right.  I love them enough to not go in the OTHER direction…  just cuss em out and give them the silent treatment.  I’ve realized, the only way I can show love is love them with the love of Jesus Christ.  Sacrifice, freedom-loss… go to them first and talk.  Now I know this isn’t the case in EVERY family.  There are some families that the parents are abusive and tear down their children, or perhaps vice-versa…  but those who follow Christ, will always lead by love, not a freedom to destroy.  That is the essence of the gospel that I’ve found.

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entaglements; lock it safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at last to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.”

– C.S. Lewis

As Tim Keller eloquently put it, “The love of Christ constrains.  Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and give Himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in Him.”

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