Thursday, September 19, 2013

Love Is Not for Cowards

In his philosophical and theological study of love titled The Four Loves, author, C.S. Lewis, has this to say about the risks we take in endeavoring to love and be loved, 

     To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even 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. To love is to be vulnerable.

Part of what is so interesting in Lewis' point is the irony of how we tend to view vulnerability as a mark of weakness when, in reality, vulnerability takes great courage and a commitment of honor. Vulnerability as weakness is certainly true in nature. The vulnerable creatures—the ones that foolishly reveal themselves by walking alone—are typically the ones that are devoured when some opportunistic predator takes notice. 

The sickly, the small, the frail, the lonely, the wounded, and the elderly zebras are frequently lunch for the lions, and there is a sense in which that fact is also true among human beings. Those who reveal themselves to be limping along somehow, those who are the weakest and most alone in the world, are very often gobbled up by the predatory people roaming among us. Still, God has provided a system of protection through His command to love one another. We just fail to use it.

Perhaps our collective "buy in" to a Darwinian view of the world has cost us our critical understanding of the substantial ways that we are different from the animals. If we view our chief end as a matter of survival, then it stands to reason that we would consider vulnerability a character trait of the weak and the foolish. Fair enough. Worldview sets the perimeter for belief. So in wrestling with our animal instinct to survive and our human need for companionship, most of us settle on being selectively vulnerable. We are satisfied that caution + wisdom = relative safety. Sounds reasonable.

But if our worldview is rooted in biblical Christianity, we cannot necessarily apply the same standards of reason to our beliefs. There's no fence to straddle. The chief end of human beings—their raison d'etre—is to love God and to enjoy relationship with Him forever. If Lewis' argument (love requires vulnerability) holds, then the greatest love we were created for is no exception. In both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we are told that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. In other words, hold nothing back. Nothing. No. Thing.

In fact, in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew Jesus is asked about this commandment, and he makes it clear that loving God and loving others are practically inseparable. In keeping the commandment to love God without holding anything back, by extension we're required to love others as if they were our very own selves.  By holding these two commandments as our principles for living, we essentially obey the whole law of God...but, of course, we don't...not by a long shot. Our human instinct to survive sets us up to abandon our supernatural calling to be vulnerable—to be open, accessible, transparent, generous lovers of God and man.

Well, here's the reality of wearing the name Christian. We cannot take that name on and off like a name tag at a conference. Sure, we may do that and fool a whole lot of folks, but God sees. He knows a poser when He sees one. If we wear His Name with integrity and sincerity, then we don't get to pawn off our lack of love and vulnerability toward our fellow humans as merely the "animal" nature. <insert "wrong answer" buzzer here>

Commandments aren't suggestions, and being given the name of the king to wear as our own isn't like a hall pass to go and smoke in the rest room. Our sin and survival instincts are not license for cowardice and dishonor.  Love and vulnerability require courage and honor. 

Love rides into the valley of death with God and with others. Love goes follows its cause and its calling out of obedience to God even when it seems crazy. Love doesn't question or reason, it just forges ahead through anything and everything...propelled by courage and by honor. Love is but to do and die. Courage pushes us forward when our honor is on the line.

     That's why courage is tricky...sometimes you might not even know why you're doing something. I mean, any fool can have courage, but honor, that's the real reason you either do something or you don't. It's who you are, and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important then you have both honor and courage, and that's pretty should hope for courage and try for honor, and maybe even pray that the people [you love] have some too. —from The Blind Side

The Bible says it this way,        

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

New International Version (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

To call ourselves Christians is to answer God's call to courage and honor. There's no way around it. Love may call us into the muck and mire of people's lives. Love may call us deep into the valley of death, but we are never called by a leader who hasn't been there already. He made it back alive. Follow Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. You'll make it out alive too.

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