Four Hundred Texts on Love 15

54.  St Paul says that, if we have all the gifts of the Spirit but do not have love, we are no further forward (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2). How assiduous, then, we ought to be in our efforts to acquire this love.

55. If ‘love prevents us from harming our neighbor’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is jealous of his brother or irritated by his reputation, and damages his good name with cheap jibes or in any way spitefully plots against him, is surely alienating himself from love and is guilty in the face of eternal judgment.

56. If love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is full of rancor towards his neighbor and lays traps for him and curses him, exulting in his fall, must surely be a transgressor deserving eternal punishment.

57. If ‘he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law’ (Jas. 4:11), and the law of Christ is love, surely he who speaks evil of Christ’s love falls away from it and is the cause of his own perdition.

The four texts above seem to me to be tied together by a single thread of thought. How do we acquire love? That also seems to me to be a trickier question than we often credit. We seek many gifts, but we do not often seek love, for love always means sacrifice.

We turn from love in small actions usually, not in large, dramatic ways. We think evil of another human being. Perhaps we share our thoughts with another. We might then act to ‘humble’ the other person, even though it is not our place to humble anyone. We set traps to trip each other up.

This approach to life often does not seem any less prevalent to me in Christian communities. Sometimes it seems to be more common there than among communities of friends who are not necessarily (or at all) Christian. Gossip and negative speech seems to rip through the church like wildfire. I’m more out of that loop (by choice as much as by circumstance) than most, but even I catch some of it.

And that brings us to the last text above. When we do such things, we are negatively judging Christ’s love. We turn our backs on that love. We decide that’s not how we want reality to be. And when we do that, we are saying that we don’t want God. On that scale, it doesn’t matter much what we intellectually believe (or think that we believe, anyway). When we refuse to love, we are rejecting God, who is love. We are making ourselves into creatures like the dwarves in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle. Even in the glory of God revealed as all in all, we will have convinced ourselves that we live in a dark, dirty, and smelly stable. Truly, we are the cause of our own perdition.

I’m as guilty of doing that as anyone I know. In some ways, perhaps I’m worse than most. But I do know that I don’t want to stay in the stable of my delusion.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy.

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