Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tangled and Twisted

I was recently reminded of this quote from C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be 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 entanglements; lock it up 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 least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

As I become older I can see more and more what a dangerous and difficult thing love is. I wonder at how love can even be moral and righteous and some circumstances, and immoral and wrong in other situations. It’s not so much that I am seeing the world in more shades of gray. It’s that I’m coming more and more to see the world as incredibly tangled, impossibly snarled, knotted and jumbled. Few things are truly simple. Almost nothing cleaves a straight line.
This is as true for the adulterer as it is for the homosexual. The fornicator struggles with this as much as the sodomite. And guess what? That’s all of us. Jesus made it pretty clear that the real standard of rightness is higher than we can reach. So don’t think that you aren’t bound up in the knot.
As I was saying, it is easy to think that love, in and of itself, redeems any act, any person, any event. Deep affection, total devotion is perfectly acceptable, no matter who the people are, no matter what their situation. This may be the most pernicious lie to permeate our culture. If it’s love, then it must be OK. Love, however, is not that simple, and like everything else in the world, it is twisted and bent and needs itself to be redeemed and made right.
How can it be wrong if it FEELS SO RIGHT?
But I LOVE HER! Becomes not simply a declaration but the argument for justification.
The problem is defining what love actually is. Lewis’ book does a powerful job of exploring the complexities and layers involved in love.

Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God; Appreciative love says: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory." Need-love says of a woman "I cannot live without her"; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection — if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.

We have made love an idol. We worship it and justify our worship by chanting “God is love…God is love.” In fact, we really have no idea what we are talking about. Our study of love only grazes the most thin surface layer. It has not served us well.
I have no idea how to do this, but if we can go deeper and peel back the layers of what love is, we will find that love is much harder, more violent, more demanding than we like to think – and more glorious and magnificent and splendid than we could have conceived. If we were to find a way to truly reveal to ourselves the absolute heart of love, we will turn the world inside out.


Ron Jung said...

I gave a talk at Campus Crusade last month. They wanted me to speak on "evangelism" so I spoke on "love". I challenged the students with the not so novel idea that the greatest thing they could do for the Kingdom of God is to learn to love. Evangelism will flow naturally from love for neighbor.

kokomo said...

The remainder of "God is love" is that we need to remain in union with God. It is correct that knowledge of what this means is truly scarce or simply ignored. Excuses do indeed, abound. We are under obligation to "love" our enemies, those persecuting us and especially to love those related to us in the faith, but NOT as Jude 4 indicates, turn that into an excuse for loose conduct.
True love is firm, strong, directed by godly wisdom and adhering first to that which is chaste and right. This is remaining in God's love. It takes work, daily guidance and application and also means resisting opposing influences (no matter the packaging - $, prominence, attractiveness, etc.). It also means knowing our own limitations, setting boundaries for our behavior and begging for divine guidance.
Love does involve emotion, but if the mind is not equipped with knowledge of what true love is from God's standards, it can and almost always will be expressed in the wrong direction.