Reader’s note: This is the one I wrote tonight after finding the last one didn’t publish for some reason.
Oddly enough, something went wrong last night and the blog I wrote didn’t get published. I only got that impression this morning when I got up and saw that no one had looked at last night’s blog. I’m thankful though for all the readers that kept coming. If you ever don’t see a new blog in the morning, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
Today, I’d like to discuss what love is. This won’t be anything exhaustive. What I want to do is give a good and basic look and clear away the big false ideas we have about love in our society today. I highly recommend anyone getting a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves” and see his remarkable thoughts on this. (I also recommend especially the audio, the one book we have a recording of Lewis himself reading.)
Lewis speaks of four loves which the Greeks knew of. We, today, unfortunately have one word. I can say that I love apologetics, I love a lady, I love my friends, I love my family, and I love God, and the same word is used for each. We all know that each of those has a different kind of love to it and it has a different degree of love.
Storge was the kind that referred to simple affection. This is the kind of love you even expect from the stranger on the street. You expect to be treated this way by virtue of being a human being. Phileo refers to the love of friendship and as one who now lives with a roommate, I find out more and more the great joy that is this kind of love. Eros refers to sexual love and, yes, as a single guy this is a kind of love that is on my mind often. Agape referred to divine love and the Christians quickly took this in in order to describe the love of God.
Let’s notice something love is not described as though, even in the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Love is not described as an emotion. Now someone might immediately object that I have a cold view of love. Not at all. I have a deep view of it. I do not deny that love is capable of producing emotions. (And considering the opposite sex, INDEED IT CAN!) However, love itself is not the emotion. We could say we are experiencing feelings of love, in a sense, to be more accurate.
Emotions tend to be reactionary. Love is not to be reactionary though. It is to be proactive. It is to seek the good in others. Now there are responses of love of course and a situation can come that can bring to mind loving ideas, but it is an action to be done to seek the good of the other simply for the sake of the other. Seeking the good of the lady, for instance, only to get a night of passion and then ditch her in the morning is hardly love.
I believe this is the number one hang-up in the area of love. We reach a point in a relationship where our feelings seem to have dissipated. We wonder then if there is a problem. Are we losing devotion to this person or thing? Could it be many marriages today are divorcing early because the feelings do flow after awhile and the people have decided that the feelings were the love?
I view it as the opposite. You are being called to a deeper love at this stage. It does not mean the feelings are gone for good, as feelings do ebb and flow, but that they are not going to be the basis. The honeymoon is over and now you must plan your life together and you must learn to have love for this person or thing based on the person or thing itself.
Consider what I mentioned earlier of apologetics. There are times I have a deep love for what I do and there are times I think “I’ve gotta drag myself through this book?” Those feelings also ebb and flow I realize due to health concerns of mine, personal stress, my job that I don’t enjoy at this time, financial matters, thoughts of certain ladies in my life, dealing with family and friends, trying to have free recreational time, etc.
Of course, it could also be some apologetics books are just boring and sometimes they’re class work and class work is not usually as fun as work you give yourself to do. (Dear readers, there are times writing a blog is not even the utmost joy in my mind and yet, it seems that I do it every day because I believe it is important.)
However, I see my love in my reactions. I can have a passive attitude towards what I do and I’ll be at work bored and then suddenly turn and look. “Men in white shirts and black pants! Were those Mormons?!” My reactions show where my loyalty lies. “Did I hear someone mention the Bible?” Again, reactions show where the loyalty lies.
I’d ask mothers to consider this an example as well. Imagine changing your baby’s dirty diaper for instance. Were you, at that moment, always filled with great joy and love for that child? Were you filled with great love and joy when you were woke up at 2 A.M. after a tired day and one you had to go to work the next morning early and yet you heard that baby crying?
Yet you do it anyway? Why? Because you do love even when the feeling is not there.
I would contend that if you love someone for the feeling they give you, then you are using that person as a means to your own happiness. I would also contend that we can do the same with God. This is one of my concerns with our experience-driven church. We want so much to have these grand experiences and God is just a way to get to them. One of the greatest joys in your Christian life could be when you get to the point where you serve God even when you don’t have feelings of love for him. C.S. Lewis has written about this as the Law of Undulation in the Screwtape Letters. (Which I have blogged about before.)
If anyone wants to know of personal examples here, I have had mornings where I’ve got up and I’ve even been angry at God. Things haven’t gone well in my life and I don’t understand why it’s happening and why he’s letting me go through it and why he’s still so absent, and yet I get on this computer and see people spreading lies about him and his Word and I can’t stay silent. I don’t say this to brag about myself. I say this simply to give a glimpse into my own life for others to show I understand this. Part of the greatest joy I find in fact is trusting God when trust seems ridiculous and I have nothing to base that trust on except him alone.
If love is not an emotion, it is a commitment. That is also what marriage is. Marriage is the ultimate commitment one person can make to another and it’s a shame that we’re seeing that commitment diminished more and more. The sexual commitment between one man and one woman is truly unique in the nature that it has.
Love is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other and if anything is an example of this, it is the blessed Trinity. Each person loves the other for the sake of the other and who the other is. This is the kind of love also that we are to show to each other. We are to treat each other as persons and not merely as means to an end. (Yes. That is something Kant got right.)
And maybe this is part of our problem today in society. We have lost sight of what it means to be a person and we have seen each person instead as a tool to our own happiness. Have you sat down recently and thanked God for the persons in your life? Readers might remember the time I blogged about going to bed one night and realizing my roommate’s room was right across from mine and that I had a great person here with me and that is a gift of God. (It brings great joy to ponder that now.)
Now some might think I’ve said little on what love truly is. I probably have simply because it is such a great mystery. One is more apt to speak little than to speak much and risk getting something totally wrong. I pray what I have said so far has been correct. Tomorrow, I plan to look at what sex itself is, which will be the eros portion of love specifically, the only one we’re going to examine in-depth in this look.