Friday, May 03, 2013

Let us Live; Let us Love

by CWK
*Excerpted, from the longer post: The Fight To Stay Light, with additional material.

We are not to be, as the popular song goes, "In love with the way (we) feel." Even the preposition "in" is dangerous: as if, love were a state we stumbled into, outside our control, like a spot on the map. If so, then it's no surprise that many are "in" love one moment, and "out of" love the next. 

"You can't choose who you love." 

Such is the wisdom of our age: A wisdom that has launched a thousand ships, and ten thousand adulteries, and a hundred thousand wars. As popularly bandied about, this means, "You have no control over who you love." We should stop to consider what they are saying when they say such a thing. They are saying: you are a slave. You have no choice, no will, and no power in the matter; you have no dignity; you are literally at the mercy of "being in love." Love chooses us, we say, not vice versa. This amounts to a world in which there is no love whatsoever: where marriages never last: where children despise their parents: a world in which war must always be the norm. In other words, this philosophy explains the current state of the world and our culture. Welcome to America, 2013. You can't choose who you love; therefore, no one loves. 

Let me be, if not the first, at least one more voice, of protest: I have it on good authority: you can choose who you love. 

You can choose who you love; you can also choose what you love; you can choose when and how and where and to what degree. I am not given to overstatement: so, read these next words as the truest truth I can write: You can choose who/what you love, and THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION OF OUR LIVES. Not, where we go to college. Not, who we marry. Not, a retirement plan. Not, where we work. But, what we love: this is the most important decision of our lives. This. Is. The. Most. Important. Decision. Of. Our. Lives.

"You can't choose who you love." 

I could not disagree more strongly. Actually, I agree with that statement. If only interpreted much differently: According to God's word, there is a sense in which, "You can't choose who you love." 

"Love your enemies (Mt. 5.43)."

My translation, "Choose to love the person you have chosen not to love. Choose to love the last person on earth you would, naturally, choose love. Be concerned about this person's welfare. No matter how much evil they do you, as much as it depends on you, try and do them good. You have no prerogative to choose who you love; no matter who the person is, you are to choose to love them. You are called by God to love even your enemies (Mt. 5.43)."

"Love your enemies" -- no statement could be more challenging; nor could there be a more staggering assertion of human dignity and responsibility. It's as if Jesus said, "You can choose anything. Anything is possible for the man who chooses." Jesus seems to be rolling back the curtain of the universe, and letting us in on reality almost too great for us to take it: we can love whoever we please, if only we choose to. And here, we say we can't choose who we love. Husbands mumble that they just can't love the wife they once promised they'd always love. We mumble that we can't choose to love our friends, our families, our husbands/wives. As if, nothing were possible. As if love itself were not possible. And make no mistake, when we say, "You can't choose who you love," we have not only destroyed our dignity. We have destroyed love.  

I wonder if our love would be improved, actually, by thinking of others as enemies: that is, as people we don't naturally love. I wonder if, when Jesus says "love your enemies," he is saying something which applies much more to father/sons, husbands/wives, boss/worker than to national and political enemies. The first century hearer of Jesus' words might have thought of the oppressive Roman centurion who represented brutality and oppression; but, if they followed Jesus teaching, it would have improved their relationship first of all with the irksome neighbor who represented mild annoyance. Much of the time, we secretly do consider the ones closest to us (family, friends, colleagues) in a way enemies. We consider them a burden, a trial to be born, as those who have wronged us, and people to whom is due some measure of (even if very small) vengeance. The teenager who sets out to love his/her enemies may be surprised to find Jesus words apply much more to their relationship with their brother and sister than with their relationship to North Korea. I had a little brother, and older sisters, and I can say from experience: my greatest rivals and hatred and wars were played out in a plot of land about an acre wide with those it was taken for granted I loved and lived peacefully with. 

Keep in mind: loving your enemies does not imply we have sentimental feelings toward them. Nor, does it imply we are pushovers, or "nice." Out of love for their enemies, men have shed blood. Love wishes the best for self/others, and as much as it is in our power, it does that best. "The best" may mean a kind word; it may also mean a word of severe rebuke. Loving another means considering, and then acting, in their true best interest: what is really good for them. As Augustine said, love consults the welfare over the wish of our neighbor.

Such consideration and action arise from a heart that longs for the best for others. Desire. Consider. Act. The order is important.

Desire: Best Good
Consider: Best Good
Act: Best Good

Desire, the heart, the affections: this must be FIRST.

Then, consideration. We have to think about what would be best for another, give it some thought, before we can do it. Our problem is often: we don't even take the time to think about others, much less think about what is best for them.

Then, act. Without action, nothing counts for love. 

This does not mean desire is irrelevant; true loving desire always leads to thoughts, then deeds, of love. The enemy of right and loving action is not desire, but wrong desire (hate). When we lack love, we tend to talk a big game, and do nothing. Thus, the Bible frequently warns of loving by way of wordiness 

1 Jn. 3.18: Love not in words, but in deeds, and in truth.
  Love is not a state out there; love is to be a state in here: in our hearts. It is the state we carry with us whatever state we find ourselves in. We "walk in love (Eph 5.2)" –  where our feet step, there we love.

I can say, with Poe, "When I was young, and dipped in folly, I fell in love with melancholy." 

There is a giving of oneself over, a resignation, a spiritual sluggishness, that seems so inviting to the would-be-melancholic.Such resignation bears the face of a slightly smug, but cool and mature, carelessness. It invites us to an exalted perspective wherein, we are above life: nothing matters. "Whatever." "It is what it is." When such resignation calls, we might just sit back, and let our feelings wash over us, like a fatal injection, spreading death: like a tidal wave, tossing us cruelly, and carrying us to unknown destinations. Ah, my friend, I will tell you the destination: death. To sit back and let the world and our feelings wash over, to sit back motionless, that is death, and the road to death. The Greek concept of life meant "motion." Scan the world, and you will notice: living things move; living things are active. Dead things are still; dead things are inactive. Living men swim against the waves; dead men are carried by the waves. Let us move; let us strive; let us fight; let us run, and swim, and seek, and not yield. Let us live; let us love.


The danger of believing that you ‘fall in love’ is that it also means you can ‘fall out of love’ just as unexpectedly… We need to throw out the misconception that love is some strange ‘force’ that tosses us around against our will like leaves in the wind [infatuation is sadly mistaken for true love these days. Thus if a man 'falls in love' with a married woman, instead of commanding his feelings away from her, he says 'How can you resist love; it must triumph!' Much evil is done in the name of such 'love'. Also, too many marriages are based on little more than this kind of 'love', and so get into trouble soon after the wedding day. True love ought to really grow from that day: not diminish! It is at root the friendship and intimacy of two souls - and is more about acts than feelings. The feelings will deepen as a result of the acts. G.M.] We cannot justify doing what we know is wrong by saying that love grabbed hold of us and ‘made’ us behave irresponsibly. That’s not love. Instead, it’s what the Bible calls in Thessalonians 4:5 ‘passionate lust.’ We express true love in obedience to God and service to others - not reckless or selfish behavior - and we choose these behaviors.

Josh Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye

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