God desires one thing from us: our love. For us, doing that is fairly simple, though not always easy. All we need to do is obey His commandments and to do His will in all things. It gets tricky when we realize that God gave us Free Will, meaning that some of us will choose not to love Him. If God only wants our love, and Free Will means we might not give it to Him, why would He bother giving us Free Will at all?
Because love has to be chosen.
It’s not possible to be forced to love someone. You can be forced to be nice to someone, you can be forced to obey someone, but love has to be a decision of the lover to give that love to someone else.
This is another reason God hates sin so much. Sin robs us of our ability to chose love. We talk about being slaves to sin all the time, but have you ever stopped to think about it?
When I was fourteen, I got myself caught in weeks and weeks of lies about my math homework. After a few days, I all but lost the ability to come clean because of a crippling fear of punishment. It wasn’t until my mom confronted me with a failing report card that I was finally able to break free. All sin is like that. Just like a drug, the more habitual we are about our sins, the less we have the ability to turn away.
Fourteen-year-old me thought that freedom meant the ability to chose to ignore my homework. I didn’t realize how quickly and deeply I’d become enslaved to my own lies. St. Paul in Romans sums it up like this:
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.” Romans 7:19-20
You’ll hear converts talk all the time about the Freedom that they find in Christ. As a teenager, that mystified me. Wasn’t I freer if I just did whatever I wanted? I didn’t understand the restraint that sin placed on me. Worst of all, I robbed myself of the ability to love as I ought. My slavery to my sin prevented me from loving God.
Sunday begins NFP Awareness Week. Just as we cannot love God if we are a slave to our sins, we cannot love our spouses if we are a slave to our passions. Artificial contraception binds us in subjugation under our momentary desires. It robs us of the opportunity to learn self-mastery and keeps our desire for our spouses at a perpetual selfish wish for satisfaction, rather than a free, total, faithful, and fruitful gift of ourselves to the other.
If we remain slaves to our passions in our romantic relationships, we are crippled in our ability to love. Without love, our relationships will be continuously bruised and broken. NFP demands that we control our desires, that we master our passions, and that we freely choose to love our spouses, month after month.
In the same way, mastering all of our passions frees us to chose loving God. It is “for freedom that Christ set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Not to live however we feel pushed by our passions, but as we should in accordance with His will.
“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
– St. John Paul II
Hilary Thompson is a young wife and mother of two boys in southeast Michigan. She has been an organist since she was twelve. When she grows up, she wants to be a 97-year-old church cleaning lady. You can find more of her work at Messy Buns & Latin Chant.