Saturday, February 13, 2016
WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
Yes, the Bible contains violence and bad behavior, starting from the beginning with the story of Cain (Genesis 3). It is important to note, however, that Scripture is honest; it tells it like it is. It tells both that people have done bad and even violent things, and that these things are judged as sin, and potential death. The good news is that God is merciful, willing to forgive. What is required is recognition of sin, God's right to judge--and His ability to change us.
God is Love, and we are enabled to love because of His love for us. "Love" is not automatic--not even between brothers ! Note that when John (I John 3:12) he goes back to the beginning of God's dealings with us to repeat his teaching about love, he uses Cain as a negative illustration. This one is pretty obvious--but we have many ways of thinking of Love, some better than others. Ask three people, you'll get five definitions.
St Paul, in his beautiful, poetic description of love, also includes more negative illustrations than positive. Looking at them, there is one that is a key to all the others: self-centeredness. One of the traps we can fall into is thinking that one manifestation of love is jealousy--which like most of these, has its focus on our own feelings and what we see as our "rights". The sad thing is that our demanding, envious and suspicious attitude destroys relationships. Being snobby, rude, stuck-up, thinking too much of yourself makes for skewed relationships. Not anything people want to be around.
Anger, holding grudges, gloating over others' misfortunes and misdeeds, and being amused by pushing the envelope of decency and ethics are often compartmentalized in minds of people who see themselves as good friends and family people, can be often very charming when it suits them. Our own self-image gets in the way of loving the way we need to.
The positives are easy to recognize: kindness, truthfulness, patience, hope; but not always easy to practice. We need to remember what C.S. Lewis once wrote: "The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us."