Just north of San Francisco, we were sitting at an upper tier table looking across the restaurant and out the panoramic picture windows at the sea lions on the rocks rising out of the Pacific Ocean. It was a romantic and memorable setting, except that a young Karisa was with us making it more of a Kodak family shot. As we were beginning to enjoy our meal a disturbing scene entered my peripheral vision. The hostess was escorting two men to the table directly between us and the ocean view. One was obviously in the final stages of AIDS, frail, emaciated, skin ulcerated, and dressed as if it was a cold day. His partner held his arm and balanced him as he moved gingerly toward the table. I was quite irritated. The scene was ruined; it was a time when we all feared the HIV virus was easily transmitted and the appearance of the man disturbed my appetite. I was not prepared to see the Face of God.
Abhorring their lifestyle, intrigued by their public conduct and trying not to stair, I was drawn into observing the two men. The healthy looking man lovingly attended to his partner, cutting his meat, picking up his dropped napkin, wiping his mouth, adjusting his scarf, tenderly expressing his devotion. It was a disturbing and transforming epiphany. True love, God like love, is not confined to the Godly.
There are those who bifurcate love, imagining one love that flows from God and another that rises from the human heart. God’s love is perfect; human love is a poor imitation. The best we can hope for is that our love become like God’s love. Let me suggest this approach to love is misguided and self defeating.
God is love and all love is from God, a sign of His presence. It is never generated by the human heart. Just as all life is from God, is sustained by God, and returns to God, love is a trait of human existence that evidences the very presence of God within every child of Adam and Eve. Love is the radiance of God’s face, the communication of His image. The fact that unredeemed people love is not evidence of differing types of love, one divine the other human. It is evidence of the grace of God to withhold the power of sin and maintain something of His image within the fallen race.
Love expresses the image of our triune God. It is the perfect affection of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other. It is their passion to embrace, edify, and serve each other. Love is the drive to contribute to the fulfillment/fruitfulness of the other, not to possess but to release. In love the object of our passion is the subject to whom we submit. Anything less is self serving lust. Lust is nothing more than the objectification of another being, relating to another person as if they exist to serve us.
In contemporary thought hate and love exist as two ends of a continuum. Hate is the opposite of love. But this perception distorts the essence of love as affection and reduces it to an emotion or an appetite. The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy (which is closer to the Biblical meaning of "hate"). Love is not governed by feeling but by disposition.
One implication of what I am suggesting is that all expressions of “human” love are actually mediations of God’s love. Love is not redemptive any more than life itself is redemptive. It cannot impute righteousness no matter how pure it appears. (The fact that the two homosexuals loved each other is a testament to God’s grace, not to the condition of their souls.) Love rolls back the curtain so that we can get a glimpse of God. Thus, encountering the love of God does not require isolation from others. Indeed love between humans is a gift from God enticing us all back toward Him.
I am thankful for the love of God which He mediated through Himself in Christ. In love the Father sent His Only Begotten Son to die for us so that we might have life to the very fullest. In Christ He lifts us up in love and wraps us in His divine embrace. The Holy Spirit draws the redeemed into that unmediated encounter with God where His love permeates and transforms our being. In this encounter we become the mediators of God's unbounded love for His creation. We love not as the World, but as God loves. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have not met. We love our enemies. We love all of God's creation. Love ceases to be a mystery to be understood and possessed, and becomes a declaration of the mystery of the incarnation. By this shall all people know that we are His disciples in that we have love which they can recognize but not explain.
I am also thankful for the love of God mediated through fallen humans. Marred by sin, it is none the less the love of God. To discern it is to discern the grace of God reaching out to all of us. Love is the fountain from which hope springs. It is a sign of God’s presence in His creation.
February 18, 2010