LOVE IS WAR
(Art by Karley RH)
LOVE IS WAR
"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." -C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)
We are burying my uncle tomorrow. Today my family travels with so many others as we pay our respects and mourn together. Even that isn't how it should be due to the extreme precautions we have to take because of COVID which is what took him from us, to begin with. Many of us must stay home and check-in via phone calls and video chats throughout the day. Some are doing their best to be present in person and take as many precautions as they can. Others, it seems, still won't be doing either of those. This isn't exclusive to my family. This is what mourning a loved one has been like during the last couple of years as we continue to endure this plague that haunts our very steps and continues to bring us death, fear, and pain.
It's in this place where I find myself dwelling on this week's Advent theme of Love. As you can already tell, this approach to the topic will not be coming from a Hallmark type of feeling that we often associate with the word, "love". But rather, this approach is much deeper than that.
What is love? (baby don't hurt me) (come on. you thought it too.)
But really, what is love? Is love some sort of feeling that comes and goes? Is love a commitment till death? Is love something you can fall in and out of, making it a finite gem that we must treasure with care or it will be gone like tears in the rain?
Actually, it can be all of those things. And usually, it is all of those things and more. Love is so ambiguous and we say it so flippantly that we can mean we love a meal and in the same breath tell our spouse we love them as well. To take a more in-depth look at the different types of love I highly recommend "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis from which I borrowed the above quote. It's profound and a wonderful exploration of what love truly is in our society.
But here, for now, I would like to approach love as it is presented in daily life. In almost every aspect of life, we see love as a war. A fight for something you truly have given your heart and will to. It has started literal wars, it has shattered families, it has brought warring countries together on the battlefield to celebrate Christmas together, it has healed decade-old wounds, and it has resulted in joys and pains. Love is something that we can give to the best of things or the worst of things. And depending on what you give it to, your life can be filled with joy or filled with darkness.
The age-old verse that everyone knows (whether you're a Christian or not) is John 3:16:
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
But we usually stop there, don't we? Sometimes we'll add v.17:
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
But we hardly ever go beyond this when we are quoting it to someone or to ourselves or when we heard it quoted to us. However, there's much more to this passage. If we look beyond these two verses, we see that who/what we give our hearts to matters and has very real consequences.
When we read on, we see that God loved the world enough to enter into it and make a way for people to choose light over darkness. It seems to me that in verse 18 it is pretty clear that people were already in love with the darkness when God showed up on the scene.
18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
But how? What went wrong? If God is so powerful, so good, and so wonderful, then why do people love the darkness in the first place?
I've mentioned it before, but this is where the doctrine of Christus Victor (Christ The Victor) comes into play. I challenge you to follow the link and read for yourself how fits in relation to "Ransom Theory" and "Substitutionary Atonement". To summarize, God created humans and gave them the earth to steward and help Him rule; to come alongside Him in decision making. Then humans gave that right over to the already fallen divine beings who rebelled against God prior to this time. When humanity decided to gain the knowledge of good and evil (becoming wise like God) outside of the correct time and place, then that disrupted the order in which God established, therefore giving the role of stewards of the earth over to the fallen divine beings and humanity was now in bondage, not only to these powers but to their own desires and urges, be them good or bad. Then thousands of years later, God entered the scene as a man (Jesus) and overwrote that new order by dying and conquering death and establishing another new order. One that sets humanity free from the darkness once and for all and enters into the light and uses joy as a weapon to fight the dark powers that still wreak havoc over this broken world (which we all feel the effects of on a daily basis).
However, not everyone wants to be rescued. "Some people loved darkness rather than light." Darkness can be very appealing. It can bring bliss and pleasures and comforts beyond your wildest dreams. It can bring you false hope and joy that are wrapped up in material things or it can place people upon an idolatrous pedestal that they were never meant to be on. But the catch is, when you love something, you can oftentimes be blind to the dangers it brings your way. And this also applies to loving good things too much. When they begin to rule your life, they become a tool of the darkness. It rarely is as black and white as to whether or not you should steal, have an affair, or kill someone. Oftentimes it is much more complicated than that. You can love your spouse so much that they become your everything in extremely unhealthy ways. Loving your spouse is good, but turning them into an idol is destructive and dangerous.
I think a great example of "dark love" or a love of darkness is the character Gollum from Tolkien's LOTR. The One Ring is a tool of destruction. It was created to tear away the best parts of someone and completely overtake their will and sanity, leaving only hate and malice in its wake. Gollum experienced this first hand. He not only was enslaved by the ring, but he was deeply in love with it. He was the ring bearer for almost 500 years and during that time it turned him into a monster inside and out. But he LOVED it. Oh, how he loved it. It was his precious. He killed for it. He sacrificed everything for it. And even when he was offered the chance to turn from its darkness and enter the light, even when Smeagol wanted so badly to enter the light and leave the darkness behind, his love for the ring overwhelmed him to the point where he had no choice but to follow its will to his destruction, and ultimately its own destruction as well.
We are like Gollum. We love the darkness. I admit I do. I used to love it more than I do now, but I still cling to it just as Gollum did in his cave for hundreds of years. And the only hope I have of letting go of my precious is to continue to awaken to the light. And the only way I can awaken to the light is if I follow a God who rescues me from my own darkness and my own destructive "dark love", to show me what true love really means. God doesn't just tell us what love is, He shows us. He lives it out. We can see how after humanity willingly gave His love up and chose darkness over light, that He didn't give up on humanity regardless of how many times they continued to reject Him. He pursues us until we see what real love and real humanity look like. Following Jesus isn't a "get out of hell free" card. It's an awakening to what we are truly meant to be.
So at this moment, in this final week of Advent, consider what darkness is ruling you. Think deeply about what you cling to in the darkest depths of your soul and consider choosing real love over this dark one. It's a war. You will be hurt. You will have pain. You will face times like I am facing now where it just seems like everything is falling apart because you choose to not shut your heart down and feel nothing even though you want to so badly. You may have to enter rehab. You may have to let something or someone go that you care for, but is deeply destructive. You may feel like you're losing a part of your identity. It won't be easy. It will be difficult. But it will bring joy. It will bring peace. And you will never be alone. It will be the hardest thing you do, but oh...it's worth it.
Until Next Time.
Grace & Peace,