Having established in previous posts the “anarcho-pacifist Catholic Christian” context for my ideas, I’m ready now to bring forth these ideas proper. The most important topic I’ll discuss, and the whole reason for my blog, music, photography, and way of life is simple: love. As I’ve said, I believe that love should be the central focus of every person’s life and mission and, if it were, our world would significantly improve. So I’m determined to make love the central focus of my life and mission, and part of that mission involves encouraging others to make the same choice.
It may seem silly or superfluous to make a big deal about love, since everybody should be familiar with love to some extent. Yet, as near as I can tell, most “love” in the world today is not true love. Evidently, too few people have experienced true love. Therefore, too few know what true love is or how to define it, much less how to receive and share it. This shouldn’t surprise Christians familiar with the Bible, for scripture indicates that we’ve been living in the “last days” since Christ’s ascension, and Christ prophesied of these days that “because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12, NABRE).
To advance this discussion requires a definition of love ─ true love, which is not an abstract concept. True love is a being. If one defines “true” as “being in accordance with the actual state of affairs” (Merriam-Webster.com) and “actual” as “existing in fact or reality” (Ibid.), then one can see how this is so. In order for love to be true, love must exist. If love does not exist, then it is mere fantasy, in which case to speak of true love is utter foolishness.
I say true love exists. True love is actual. True love is also operative, “exerting influence” and “producing effects” (Ibid.). In order for love to be most operative and most actual, it must be living and eternal, for the life force or life energy is the most mysteriously influential and efficacious energy in the universe, and an eternal actuality is superior to every transient manifestation or appearance. Thus, I say that true love is a living being.
True love also includes a subject and an object. There must be subject and object, for without lover and beloved, love means nothing. “Love?” one would ask. “Love by whom?” and “Love for whom or for what?”
True love is therefore a living being operating on behalf of a lover for the sake of the beloved, and such activity begins in the lover’s will. True love wills the good of the beloved, then further operates so that the lover does all the good that is possible for the beloved. Finally, because love includes a lover and a beloved, true love involves a desire for relationship. True love is only operative to the extent that the lover relates in some way to the beloved. Nevertheless, this desire for relationship is not selfish. True love does not require the beloved to reciprocate. True love gives freely without regard to recompense.
Nevertheless, the ultimate expression of true love will always be reciprocal. True love in its fullest sense involves a lover willing the good of the beloved and doing all possible good for the beloved; in response, the beloved reciprocates. True and perfect love therefore involves at least two lovers / beloveds. In its simplest expression, there will be only two.
This definition of true love opens the heart and mind to an understanding of the Trinitarian God. For Christians, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). According to the formula above, in order for God to be true love, God must be an eternally living multiplicity of persons. At the same time, in order for God to be most simple, the number of lovers / beloveds must not exceed two. Christians say that God the Father lives eternally and wills the good of the eternal Son (Christ Jesus), doing all possible good for the Son. The Son reciprocates towards the Father, while the eternally living Holy Spirit is the operative love flowing between the two. Thus, confessing that God is love necessitates acknowledging “one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity” (Athanasian Creed).
If you can make it this far – if you can believe that true love exists, and if you can believe that true love must be defined in precisely the way that I have defined it, as an eternally living being including both will and activity on behalf of an eternal lover towards the eternal beloved, then you can believe in the Christian God. You are also in a perfect position to understand why I said that, as near as I can tell, most “love” in the world today is not true love. The bulk of “love” manifested in the world fails to meet one or more of the criteria. This world’s “love” is deficient in some way. Anemic. Deceitful in fact, for if the world’s “love” is not true love, then it must be false ─ which is to say, the “love” of this world is no love at all. As unhappy as it sounds, that has been my experience. It was also Peter Tosh’s experience. Click here to rock with Tosh.
Using the above definition of true love, a way of explaining its deficiency in our world is to point out that most people reject the Christian God. Don’t freak yet! Keep reading. “According to the Religion and Public Life Project at the Pew Research Center, there are 2.18 billion Christians worldwide, which is about 31.6 percent of the world population of 6.9 billion, as of 2010” (Reference.com). It is reasonable to suppose that at least a few of those professed Christians could be pretenders, but it is also reasonable to suppose that at least a few real Christians went unreported. So it’s safe to accept the accuracy of the figures. In such a scenario, 68% of the world’s population has separated itself from true love. From the looks of the place, that seems about right.
Yet, it is not necessarily true that Christians are the only people whose lives are oriented around true love. The Catholic Catechism states, “In ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him” (CCC 848). Now “that faith” without which it is impossible to please God is faith in Him. In fact, the term gospel, translated from the Greek euaggelion, means “good news” and typically appears in the New Testament in phrases such as “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mk 1:1) or “the gospel of God” (Mk 1:14). Hence, the Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and the good news of God. The question thus arises, how could God lead anyone who is ignorant of the good news of God to faith in Him? The answer, of course, is by love.
The good news of God fundamentally has to do with who God is (love) and what God has done for us (loved us with a true, living, everlasting love, forgiving us in love, and promising to make us sharers in His essence, which is love). Therefore, anybody anywhere in the world who has faith in the existence and operation of true love has faith in Him, even if they have not heard the Gospel concerning His person, plan, or exploits.
An interesting question linked to this concept is, why does one need faith in love? One may say, “I don’t need faith. I know love exists because I’m a genuinely loving person.” Well, the only external evidences in the world for the existence of love are symbols and deeds, but symbols and deeds can be misleading. One type of symbol is language. One proclaims love verbally but lies. Gift giving is also a loving deed, but people frequently give gifts for reasons other than love – for example, to feel good about themselves, or in expectation of receiving gifts in return, or even to manipulate and control others. Thus, it takes faith to believe in another’s love. Anyone who’s ever been betrayed knows that faith in another’s love can be misplaced.
Then too, when individuals look closely into their own heart, they may find there lurking any number of reasons to doubt the sincerity of their love. Even if one feels certain that they love sincerely and constantly, is it living and eternal love? Or could that love perhaps perish along with the body in death? To believe in true love, therefore – to believe in living and eternal love – takes faith. True love isn’t known with certainty this side of heaven.
Another interesting aspect of this idea has to do with its effect on Christians’ proclamation of the Gospel. The Gospel is necessary because true and eternal love is infinite and inexhaustible, and when anybody taps into such, the natural result is a desire for more. The example Christ gave in His earthly life, recorded in the Gospels, reveals and communicates innumerable attributes of love. Clarifications appear in the New Testament epistles, most famously 1 Corinthians 13. Still more knowledge and experience of love is available in the Church through the sacraments, practices of devotion, and writings and examples of the saints. Consequently, Christians have every reason to proclaim the Gospel, even though it’s possible for someone to be saved without formally hearing it.
On the other hand, the belief that God is love shines light on certain gloomy methodologies employed by some preachers. For instance, the “fire and brimstone” preacher who wants to stress sin and put people in fear of hell may speak from a spirit of love, but it sounds terrifying and off-putting to most people. In fact, many wonder why a loving God would send souls to hell in the first place. Or, if God is love, why would He flood the earth, command the slaughter of innocents, or throw us into this cold world plagued with war, famine, pestilence, death, racism, sexism, nationalism, and so forth? As incredible as it sounds, there are reasonable, logical answers to all of these questions. That’s probably what the majority of my blog will be about. I’ll be sharing thoughts about the Gospel here – the Gospel of true love.
Listen to “True Love”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKVIWIREXEo