by Frank Muller
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So often in my conversations with folks, there comes up a misunderstanding with regards to the questions of love. What is love? What does love mean? Are there different kinds of Love? Are there good expressions of love? Can there be a bad expression of love?
So often I have observed in political, societal, theological, cultural conversations that the heart of most disagreements and misunderstandings flow from this basic premise of what love means. This is implicit in almost any argumentative set of assumptions invariably which leads back if carefully probed to a definition of love that one makes and assumes all others acknowledge and know.
This is why we can so easily judge and condemn because in our own self-righteousness we have convenient definitions of love (and often subjectively applied) that we frame in interpretating other people’s actions and motives. When both parties are engaging in this process and no discussion ever occurs about their respective definitions of love then we have relationship break downs.
We know we are there when one person says to another “we just agree to disagree”. That is the death knell of love. That statement indicates now a break in unity and the two no longer together seek the truth of a thing because it is hard and time consuming and they settle for the easy path which is to ignore and move on. Or, worse yet we simply keep arguing by repeating their notions and refusing to even entertain trying to learn and understand why someone thinks a different thing. Of course, one party always like to probe someone else’s assumption but usually becomes silent or uncomfortable when they are so probed.
We grow in the direct proportion that we are willing to learn, change and adapt based on new truth. We must “repent” and change to this new truth so that we can progress. It is like learning our ABC’s. To memorize those twenty-six letters and symbols is coming to a truth. If a child derides the ordering and says that N should come before M and says, “we agree to disagree”, then that child becomes comfortable in their lie but also will become lost in it eventually.
So, let’s begin to probe what human love may mean when we examine it more closely. Human love almost universally limits the application of loving behavior to those we personally choose or who were chosen for us. That is, we are more than likely to love our parents and siblings and friends more so than a total stranger. We are more than likely to go out of the way to help one of those people than we are a total stranger.
Within this human love context, we set limits and we also set reciprocating expectations. We will make sacrifices that fit our internal limits we have established per situation. When we grant mercy and forgiveness to one, we expect mercy and forgiveness in return. When we see people, we think have evil intentions (think depending upon your political point of view President Putin, President Trump, or President Biden) then we are quite comfortable condemning and judging them personally as well as their actions. More on that later…
So, let’s probe the notion of Divine Love. Divine Love places no limits or distinctions on people. Divine Love is unconditional and unmerited. Divine Love sacrifices and serves with no expectation of reciprocity. Divine Love never coerces ones free will and seeks only to be loved in return to the extent in that moment a person is capable of loving. There is no utility, no other objective, no secondary benefits. Divine Love serves His executioner just as lovingly as He does His Mother.
The closest thing we can see to Divine Love expressed through human love is that of a mother. For healthy and happy mother there is almost no sacrifice or service they will not perform for their child. Divine Love corresponds to Motherly love in its’ sacrificial and serving nature and yet also corresponds to Fatherly love in its’ own sacrifice to protect and defend His bride and child.
Divine Love heals. Divine Love transcends temporal reality. Divine Love defies evolutionary instincts and self-interest and preservation of even one’s own life. This is the Love that deep, deep down all people desire. We want to be loved completely, totally, unreservedly. In our souls, there is a longing for this transcendent Good.
Divine Love loves first. It does not wait for someone to love first, Divine Love reaches out to tell each of us that we are infinitely lovable, worthy of love to the extreme. In fact, this Love is willing to sacrifice itself for our love to the death. This sacrifice is of a being that is totally blameless, perfectly good, and yet will show us again and again that it will go to the depths of death to Love us and to be loved by us.
Is human love a good thing? Absolutely. However, it’s merit is limited to the extent that we love with limits, selectivity in how/who we apply it to, expectations of reciprocity that is on our terms, and on and on with an infinite set of constraints.
Can human love ever be a bad thing? Absolutely. This results because the behavior or thoughts or action is selectively interpreted as love but is in fact not loving. This indicates an ignorance of what Love actually means. Sometimes this ignorance is willful but most times it is simply ignorance. This is the same parable of a child refusing to learn their ABC’s correctly because they insist that N comes before M, and they will not change. That is willful ignorance. Before the first time the ABCs were explained to them, that was just ignorance. To change that latter means patient instruction, to change the former means working to change the heart by Loving.
Just watch TV and movies, and we will see repeatedly that “love” very quickly devolves into the marital act (almost always not shown within the confines of marriage) and lovely swooning music as the two “lovers” engage in the act. This is not love, this is sex and is not properly ordered to creation. This is a false good and a human “love”.
Thus, in the instance we have two people engaging in a good “the marital act”, but in a way and context that is not good. The relationship from the beginning is set on sands that will shift and change over time and voila we have divorce rates over 50% and the rapid rise of “living together” so as to be able to walk away without financial or legal or moral consequences i.e., limits we have placed on this “love”.
Human love therefore is mainly a competitive contest amongst people like the marketplace of seeking advantages at the lowest possible cost to ourselves. This form of love when we examine the social science data carefully begins to show just how far we are from Divine Love.
So, how then do we love in a Divine Love way? When we accept that the purest definition of Love is Love without limits, without distinction, without coercion, without any time limits then we realize that this Love exists outside of our human condition. When we see in every person that Divine Love no matter how disfigured and separated, they may currently be. We Love the Creator by returning His Love to Him and to every person we meet. Therefore, we partake of the Divine Love and return it to Him and to others. It is not we who love but rather He who Loves through us.
We access that Love to the exact proportion we let go of self and seek to unite ourselves to that Love. That is, we come to know Love, to have a relationship with that Love, to learn from that Love how to Love, when we say to ourselves M does come before N and I accept this truth. This then becomes the well-ordered life as we daily seek to understand Love and begin to unite our limited and often self-serving notions of love to this Universal and Eternal Love and cooperate by letting that perfect Love flow into and through us back to the Creator and to His creation.
The first step is learning the difference between human love and Divine Love. Through Divine Love the world and ourselves can be transformed. Through human love there can surely be some small goods, but there will surely remain an abundance of sin, evil, depression, sadness and a nagging emptiness as our lives progress.
As we conclude this missive, it is usually at this point from a human love point of view that the questions of evil and pain comes up. How can we be with sinners and yet not sin? Is it right and good to be with sinners?
To walk into a drug den is tough and scary but to walk in there and say I will “love” them by joining into the drug use so they can relate to me is a great human distortion of love. Walking into the drug den and getting to know their story is the first step. Earning the right through love and patience then grants us the privilege of engaging in a conversation about whether a person is really happy and also speaking plainly that their actions are indeed sins is how we Love. Telling them they are loved beyond measure and that our presence there is from the One who sent us, to love you as best we can and to point you to the source of the Love that brought us to them.
We do not judge or condemn the person, only the sin. Love hates sin but love never hates the sinner, because True Love cannot hate that which it created. Sin is a free choice that separates people from that Love and Love is always willing to forgive and reconcile. However, Love cannot itself sin because it is pure, objective, and unsullied. That is why we have the freedom to choose Divine Love because Divine Love will not coerce. It comes to save us from our own self-imposed exile, and it is urging us through its’ agents to Love people before their choices become irrevocable.
Let us then carefully consider how we have ordered our ABC’s. Let us then meditate deeply and carefully about the nature and conditions of our “human love” and the limits we place upon it. Let us pray intimately to the Divine Love for the Grace to begin the journey of accepting that we are dearly and deeply loved, learning what Love is, what Good is, and for the strength that can come only from that Divine Love to persevere. Let us recognize and come to fully accept that Divine Love is sacrificial and serving right up to our death for another and for our Creator. This is not the path to just comfort and pleasure; it is the path to joy and peace, and it is paved with blood and tears.
The Divine Love tells us that the nature of True Love is atonement. That is, the innocent willingly suffers to save the guilty. This great and humbling mystery of how great that Love must be and its’ call to us to accept it and share it back to the giver and to everyone we get to know.
Sadly, many in the world may reject Divine Love for their personal definition of human love. Our role is simply to spread the seeds of Truth and to gently, kindly and cheerfully speak of a Love that transcends the human heart and will accompany all those who want to get onto the path of seeking Truth.
May Peace be with us all.