It almost goes without saying that concepts such as love, justice, truth, freedom, forgiveness, and unity are immensely important for human relationships. Understanding, believing, and incorporating them into our value system and lifestyle with the help of the Holy Spirit will go a long way in helping to heal and maintain healthy relationships. It is important for the Church to understand the necessary role these concepts play in any relationship. Our exploration of these concepts begins with love.
The good news? During the first half of 2010 violent crime – which includes robbery, murder, rape and assault – declined in Orange country, including, of course, the city of Santa Ana. The bad news? The existence of this kind of crime – at all! What a far cry from what God intended. What a different world it would be if we as a community simply loved our neighbor as we love ourselves.
It would be difficult to find a church in Santa Ana that does not espouse “love” as part of what they are all about – love of God, love of Jesus, love of each other, love of people, etc. I especially like the way the college group at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Santa Ana has included love as part of their mission statement: “Our ultimate goal is to love God and love others… more, better, always.” Love plays a large part in the healing of relationships. We can minimize, I believe, the need for this kind of healing if our love focus is “more, better, always.” In any case, the following exploration of love will be helpful when trying to understand the role of love in the healing and maintenance of our relationships.
Natural Human Love: The Need to be Loved
“Need-love,” (Gk. eros) is the power that drives us to satisfy our own deepest needs. There is within each one of us the need for another to complete us, to make us whole. It is for our own sake that we seek and find the God who loves us. It is in Christ that we find the love of God and the abundant life that we so desperately desire. Only the love of God enables us to live the kind of life God intended us to live.
We love in this way because we are seeking to become what we were meant to be. We seek wholeness, which comes through union with God. Our goal is to become truly human as God intended and fulfill our longing for joy.
We are to love ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. We are part of a whole. None of us is an island. By loving ourselves and not hating ourselves we become able to effectively love others. There is nothing wrong with loving ourselves, as the late Professor Lewis B. Smedes has written in Mere Morality, “It is not self-love, but love of self-alone, which is sinful.”
Loving sexually should also be mentioned. “God’s agape does not eliminate eros from the treasury of his good created blessings,” writes Professor Smedes. This kind of love also epitomizes the oneness we seek with another human being of the opposite sex. It is part of seeking to find ourselves.
God created people with yearnings for love, oneness, and wholeness. Unfortunately, the world, the flesh and the devil have corrupted God’s original plan. The sex industry around the world is largely supported by men who long for (or previously longed for) this loving oneness and wholeness. They have not found it, but many of them keep searching for it — in all the wrong places. Others have hearts so hardened by sin that love is only a distant memory, displaced by a lust that seeks another only for self-gratification.
This sinful venture is damaging to the spirit and the mind (and sometimes the body). It hardens the heart, grows a callous over spiritual eyes, and leads down a lonely, isolated road ever farther away from the loving oneness they once desired.
In this life natural human love is not enough. But there is more love, better love, a love that never fails and that lasts forever.