The Risk of Loving

A Twilight Musing

It is best to learn early that we are not loved by other human beings solely because of what we are.  At best, we may be loved for what people perceive us to be or want us to be, but most often we are loved because of the lover’s needs, not our own.  Only God loves because of who He is, and only God can be loved because of who He is.  Only God is capable of loving because of what we need, rather than because of what He needs.  These facts should not make us cynical about human love, but they should make us realistic about the limitations of it.

The Apostle John gives us the proper orientation to love in I John 4, making clear that true, unselfish love is possible only because God went first in loving, providing the foundation and pattern of love between human beings.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-12).  One could say, “Because God loved us, we also are able to love one another.”  We can take the risk of loving another, trusting that doing so has value, even if it results in disappointment and betrayal. That’s exactly the risk that God took when He loved fallen humankind.  And because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5), we can take that risk, too.

The danger of loving as humans is that we so easily embrace one of the false loves that commend themselves: Raw sexual passion cloaked as a romantic, transcendent attachment that justifies pushing aside all other obligations.  Possessive love that smothers rather than nourishes the other.  All-absorbing love for an ideal, one’s country, or wealth.  These idolatrous “loves” keep us from exercising the true love that God has poured out into our hearts so that it can spill over into others’ lives, enriching both them and us—love that breaks down barriers and compels us, in humility and gratitude, to love the God who “first loved us” (I John 4:19).  Only thereby can we be delivered from the bondage of idolatrous love and the fear of rejected love.

 

Image: "Love" by Mikhail Chekmezov. CC License. 

 

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Elton Higgs

Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals. (Ed.: Dr. Higgs was the most important mentor during undergrad for the creator of this website, and his influence was inestimable; it's thrilling to welcome this dear friend onboard.)