Love’s Truth

Ric HudgensPastor's Corner

Sometimes I think God owes us an apology.

I’m sorry. That’s a lie.

I think about it almost every day. God definitely owes us an apology.

We are told in the Bible that love is the most important item on our daily to-do list. Love your neighbor as yourself—which of course implies that we must love ourselves. And then there is that loving God part: loving God not just a little bit but with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

The simplicity and focus of this commandment would be remarkably helpful if the thing that is most expected of us were also something that we could easily perform. If love were like eating ice cream, sleeping in, or falling down the stairs there there would be no room for complaint.

But it isn’t.

Love is very complicated. We all know how challenging it is to love our neighbor, our spouse, our children, our co-workers and “how much more difficult” (to quote a favorite phrase of Jesus) it is to love God.

In last week’s On Being podcast (you may remember my fondness for this program) the philosopher Alain de Botton proposes that love seems so perplexing because we have false expectations of both what love is and how love works. For example, the focus upon “the one meant for me” or “falling in love” or “you complete me.”

Yet when our false expectations are pointed out most of us choose to keep pursuing the lie instead of a deeper exploration of love’s truth.

In addition, this is all so confusing because love comes in many varieties and with many degrees of intensity. Loving those you have seen (your dog, your firstborn, your siblings) is not the same as loving God (whom you have not seen).

Here’s what I keep coming back to. I know very little about love and yet I am called to exercise what I know. When it comes to love there are no precocious geniuses. We are all beginners. We are all slow learners.

God invites us into a mysterious relationship with ourself, our neighbors, creation, and with God that is the ultimate “revelation” (that central theological concept) of what everything is all about. The way to begin, sustain, and consummate this relationship is by this mysterious practice of love.

Therefore love is as complicated as life itself. It is perhaps a synonym for the project of being human. It is not a problem or a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be explored. As the poet Mary Oliver reminds us in her brief poem “Instructions for a Life,”

Pay attention
Be astonished
Tell about it.

On Being interview with Alain de Botton is here.