counterfeit love

CS Lewis wrote about life so profoundly that you can’t help but testify to the truthfulness of C.S.-Lewis-2what you have just read.  I just got back from a two-week vacation where all I did was read. Out of all the page I’ve read, the one line that has stuck with me most vividly was from Lewis, “Love, in its own nature, demands perfecting of the beloved.”

My dad and I have always had a great relationship, but I remember one time in college when we sharply disagreed on something.  It was nothing that harmed our relationship, we disagreed before but this time just stuck out to me.  Now that I have some distance from the issue, it is overly apparent that he was right.  In fact, I knew he was right at the time I just wanted my way.  Love disagrees, and sometimes sharply, not for the benefit of the lover but for the beloved.  I am thankful for my father, through this disagreement he taught me how to think and reason correctly.  My father cared more about whom I was becoming than I did in those moments.

In friendships, in parenting, in marriage you will find that this old CS Lewis wisdom rings true.  Love indeed demands the perfecting of the beloved.  It is not very loving to watch someone spiral out of control.  What kind of friend would I be if I did not speak out when my friend was going down a dangerous path?  What kind of husband would I be if I didn’t want better than the current reality for my wife?  What kind of father would my kids have if I didn’t discipline them, and then what kind of kids would they be if they thought their impulses were always correct?   What kind of God would God be if He didn’t want the very best, including perfection, for his people.

True love always hopes and wants the best for others.  There is this impulse in the fabric of our society that says when your opinion is offensive; it is not loving to say it.  This seems to me like counterfeit love.  We must reject counterfeit love that allows people to rejoice in their own impulses.  Reject the kind of counterfeit love that allows you watch others drift toward disaster without lifting a finger.  Reject the counterfeit love that cares more for the lover than the beloved. Real love is compelled to want the best for you.  Real true love is compelled to kindly correct and rebuke.  Real love gently draws out perfection, if it is at all possible.

Counterfeit love is all around us, it screams, “do whatever you want!”  Even when what you want is bad.  It is a dangerous delusion when we re-define love in our own words.  As I said in another post, what would happen if a man beat his child but still professed the message of love?  The child would always have a flawed definition of love.

What would this world look like if the lover demanded the perfection of the beloved?  Of course, our love is flawed because we ourselves are not love, only God is Love.

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being a good person

Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?” -Dallas Willard

I’ve been thinking about this question ever since it was asked to me.  I love a good question, it exercises my thinking muscles, and processing it burns the fuzz off my thinking.

This question forces you to dig in the back of your brain and ask questions like, “how do we define, “good?”   Good in today’s society may be subjective. It is subjective precisely because we live in a society that claims that everyone’s own opinion is right.   In a world where everyone is right then everyone IMG_1312is their own version of good.   Many claim that humanity is basically “good,” in fact this is the claim of many world religions, but what does reality tell us?  Regardless of how we define “good”, does the reality that we are living in point toward the goodness of humanity or the flawed nature of humanity?

We live in a society where we glorify what is evil by calling it good.  Television and movies do this in spades, and you can read my thoughts about it here.  I live in a reality where people can be wrong, everyone else does too, and they just don’t realize it. If we believe that people can be wrong,  then, could it be possible that they are wrong about what they perceive to be good?  Good is so subjective because, we live in a world where everyone’s opinion is right.  If everyone perceives themselves as correct, then everyone’s definition of “good” is also correct. That makes for seven billion definitions of the word “good.”

Lets look at an age-old definition of the word, “love” for more insight to what is good.  The word, Agape means, love, and is used in the Bible to talk of love.  Because I am trying to make an argument that applies in secular circles, I am only going to talk about the usage of Agape in the context of Greek Philosophy.   The word Agape (among other things) means, “will-to good” or willing the benefit of what or who is loved.  In easier terms it means that you activity work for the benefit or good of others, and this is where we find a definition of the word “good” that is thousands of years old.

Can you love cake?  No, because you cannot work for its benefit, only its demise.  You can desire cake, which goes to show our confusion with the word love and therefore what is “good.”   If we accept that “love” and “good” work together, then I think we have a working definition of what is good.  “Good” and “love” work together because in order to do good or to benefit someone, you have to love them.

This all brings us back to the original question: Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?  Can you work for the benefit of someone else and hate them?  The fact of the matter is that you can hate someone and do something for their benefit, it is possible.  But, is it sustainable?  To hate someone and actively work for their benefit would make you hypocritical.  Ultimately, one cannot live in a state of sustained dualism for long without breaking.

I do not believe that you can have a good life if you are not a good person.  I think that these things go hand in hand.  In order to have a good life we need to think about what it means to be a good person.  Once we figure out what it means to be a good person and live it, then I think a good life will follow.

If you accept what I am laying out there as truth, then wouldn’t it make sense to then explore what love is?  When we learn how to live in this Agape type of love, then we will begin to find out what it means to be a good person.

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relentless

My kids draw me closer to Jesus every day.  They do things that remind me of how much I love and care for them.  Each time I realize my deepening and unconditional love for them, the love of God becomes more real in my life.  The reality that God’s desire is for a relationship with me is almost unfathomable until I realize my own passionate desire to love my children.

Today I was in my office reading when I got a text from my wife that read, “Emma snuck into the bathroom and tore her thumb apart on a razor.”  The injury is not life threatening, or even that bad, but I felt a cringe shudder through my body.  My poor baby, I want to take the cuts away from her, in fact I would have lost a thumb so she wouldn’t have gone through that pain.  I know it is ridiculous and insane and people heal from small wounds, but I love my kids with that kind of furiousness.  I expect that God loves me even more than that.

Brennan Manning writes, “The awesome love of our invisible God has become both visible and audible in Jesus Christ, the Glory of the Son filled with enduring love.”  The disciple who Jesus loved, John, said it like this, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”   In a moment of history, love became a walking reality.  In His reality, there was a drastic reunification with all of the people walking around with razor cuts on their thumbs and hearts.  My kids show me what God must have felt when he saw us suffering.  He poured out His love so that we could be healed. Because true love mends what is broken.  Perfect love pours light into the soul where only darkness exists.  We try to do things to prove that we are loveable all the time.  However, the consistent and persistent reality is that there is nothing we can do ant more or less to prove that we are worthy of love, that fact has been proven already.

The challenge then is to live boldly and comfortably in the love of the Father. This is a challenge when life experiences have given us a definition of love that says that we need to “do” or “feel” something.  Some life experiences have taught us that love is “doing better” or that love is one sided.  Still others have been physically or sexually abused, love becomes something that other people experience, but not me.   Love is associated with pain and darkness it is a deep void and when someone approaches it they have to go. The reality though is that Jesus is deeply, madly, relentlessly in pursuit of you.   He loves you to the point of death.  One of the things that I think highlights how much Jesus loves us is found in Luke 7:47.  A woman with a sinful reputation anointed Jesus in the presence of the religious elite, they criticized the action but Jesus said, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much…” It is almost the recognition that Jesus knows that this woman has known worldly love, the kind that uses up rather than gives, but now she is going to experience true love.

I wish everyone could sit back and realize how much they are loved.  How many problems would be solved?  If love covers a multitude of sins, how many people would be reconciled?  How many wounds healed?

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fear

Yesterday I was driving to my office at the church when I saw a man sprinting down a residential neighborhood clutching a small child.  Since I don’t see this every day I flipped around to make sure the child was okay.  When I turned around I saw the man who was now beating a car to a pulp.  He was standing on top of the car jumping up and down.  He was throwing a scooter at the car, he had shattered all the windows and all the while, this kid was just watching this man go nuts.

Yesterday when I saw this, for the protection of the child, I called the police.  But inwardly I was grieving for the man, he didn’t look like a guy who had gone off his medication, he looked like a guy who was desperate.  He looked like a man who had been deeply hurt.

Today with the Spanish pastor of our church we walked the community and prayed.  We know a lot of people from the community but there are still many more to get to know.  It struck us how gripped our community is with fear.  Almost every house has multiple large scary dogs.  Each house has a fence around it.  There were many homes with signs that said, “Keep out” or “no parking.”

Today I had the realization that this community (and many like it) for the sake of privacy has lost what it means to be neighborly.  When you walk this community, you don’t get the sense that these people have BBQ’s together or have block parties.  You get the very real sense that people are afraid and have locked themselves in their homes to feel safe.  I began to wonder if any of the neighbors actually know each other or want to, and I began to ask and dream.  What would it look like if people loved their neighbors in this community?  How would the quality of life change?  Would someone reach out to the man having an emotional break down?  Would the neighbors have come together to stop the man?

The saddest part about yesterday was that when I was on the phone with the police, they told me that there were multiple other callers, and there were plenty of people on their front lawns watching.  But this is the precise issue; we’ve become spectators in the full contact world of community.

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ten years gone

Fully knowing that they were only between 4 and 8 at the time, I asked a group of high school students where they were on 9/11.   The response was probably what you would expect.  They sort of remember it, but it didn’t really seem like it was a part of who they were. They didn’t comprehend the sadness, the fear the anxiety of the day and of the weeks following.  The anthrax scare that followed 9/11 didn’t even get on their radar.  To people who fully remember the events of the day, it is hard not to watch a remembrance video without tearing up.  It is difficult for your stomach to not sink a little when the vivid images of people jumping out of the towers roll across the screen.  In the weeks following 9/11 it was hard to step on an airplane and not profile someone (as guilty as I feel about this)…Airport security was always, “that way.” Osama Bin Laden was a household name.

I grieved a little that they did not share in the suffering of the day.  There is something about sharing in suffering that changes your perspective.  There is something that unites, that gives people a view of what’s really important.  Mostly I grieved because I realized that there is an entire generation that will never feel what I felt as I sat paralyzed in horror in front of my TV that day on September 11th.

I’ve learned that remembering is more than knowing facts.  Remembering involves feeling the pain of those whom we have a common connection with.  I’ve never felt people’s pain more clearly than I did on 9/11.  I’ve never felt more united with my fellow Americans than I did on that day.

The coming generation may never remember watching people in other countries burn American flags in the days following that horrific day.  Although some of the videos that the news was showing were shot months prior to September 11th, there was still some celebrating.  I remember how sickening that was.  I wasn’t angry but simply disgusted.  It was obvious that the up and coming generation didn’t get this because a few months ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed, we saw people celebrating in the streets.  Although there is a legitimate cause for relief in people’s mind that Bin Laden is no longer with us, it highlighted that we didn’t remember the suffering that plagued that day.  When we celebrated the death of Bin Laden we just created a cycle of vengeance.  To some Islamic extremist 9/11 was a taste of victory, for many who were hurt the death of Bin Laden was the same taste.  If we keep going down this same road, it makes me anxious to ask, what will the extremist celebrate next?  Then, what will we celebrate after that?

I learned that de-escalation of conflict is difficult when you have a people full of pain.  I also learned that genuine love conquers that pain.  I learned that loving my neighbor means protecting them.  I also learned my neighbor serves Allah.  I learned that cycles do exist and we can encourage them or discourage them.  I’ve learned that the world is smaller than I thought.  I learned that my kids who were born 8 and 10 years after 9/11 would somehow need to know the story.  They will somehow need to feel my pain.  They will somehow need to engage the world in a loving way as to not perpetuate the cycle of destruction in a world that is already devoid of love.  The will need to remember the suffering of a people who were gone before they arrived.

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