Love as an uncontrollable force.
Near the end of the Song of Solomon the bride speaks of love as an uncontrollable force that cannot be quenched or overpowered.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it,
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised. (8:6-7)
The power of love is rarely acknowledged in our everyday lives as the indomitable force behind all that we think and do. In other words, we don’t see the Bible describing a reality where we have a free will that chooses between two opposing opposites. Rather it assumes our minds and wills are mere instruments of our hearts. The heart, as the motivational center, controls and dictates to the mind what to think and the will what to choose. Therefore, the object of our affections controls us. With this in mind, I want to take a look of one particular danger about having a tameless tiger in our chest–that is, the danger of loving love.
As a pastor I became aware that many might be attracted to Christianity, not on account of Christ, but the love they received from those who love Christ. Now you may think, isn’t this the way it should work? As we love people won’t they often eventually come to love Christ? Yes we should evangelize by offering love to others! But as we invite people to love Christ by loving on them, potentially they could come to love the love they receive and not Christ.
Given the reality of us being bound by the affections of our hearts, and our fallen hearts being completely bent on loving self, it shouldn’t surprise us that someone might love being loved. Let’s face it, someone might function like this, “I love me and I love it when people love me.” Not that this is a conscious thought, but people who’ve experienced abuse or abandonment might easily fall in love with the love they’ve rarely received.
In some situations its obvious that one loves love: they begin to take advantage of others, they only show up when they’ve had a rough day and they need to be loved, or they just don’t really seem to want to know why you’ve loved them. But in others cases, the lover of love begins to play the part of a Christian. They begin to come to everything, they begin to read their Bibles, and maybe profess a belief in Christ. But when the person who has loved them goes away for a time the lover of love gradually, if not quickly, goes back to their old ways.
This reminds me of Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560).
He was a brilliant humanist scholar who fell in love with love. As one of Martin Luther’s most devoted followers, he was swept up by the wave of Luther’s passion for Christ, zealous rejection of Scholastic Theology, and the need for reformation. “All of Aristotle’s works,” according to Luther, “are the worst enemy of grace.” It was a tectonic shift for Melanchthon to agree with Luther’s “Aristotle was to theology as darkness is to light.” Prior to Melanchthon’s encounter with Luther his main ambition was to compile a Greek edition of Aristotle’s works that hadn’t previously existed in the West. Instead he wrote his 1521 Loci Communes, a book that summarized Luther’s theology so well that Luther, with tongue firmly in his cheek, suggested it should have been canonized.
Yet this rejection of Scholastic Theology and his full devotion to Luther’s theology didn’t last. In Luther’s absence and under the pressure of other events, Melanchthon retreated back to Aristotle. The three latter editions of his Loci Communes completely abandoned the bondage of the free will, which according to Luther was the “hinge” at the center of his reformation. Melanchthon had gotten caught up in the tidal wave of the man, but when the wave was gone Melanchthon made his way back to his first love, Aristotle.
Knowing the powerful dictator inside, we can’t be subtle about the reasons for our loving others. Being aware that people could fall in love with love or really just make the giver of love into a Christ-like figure, we must make it clear that we love because we are loved. Love isn’t the end or the goal; rather, pleasing Christ is our motivation, he is the end and he is the goal. We must be clear that it’s a love for Christ, who loved us and esteemed us first, that frees us to love. This won’t stop fallen people from being lovers of love, but it makes Christ the source and reason for our love of others. This isn’t mechanical or fake, but as we love Christ, who has loved us first, we begin to love what Christ loves. Thankfully he loves all of us with a love that cannot be measured nor exhausted even when we get an eternity to explore it.
David is a student of historical theology and seventeenth-century puritanism. He came to love the Puritans while studying at Multnomah Biblical Seminary under the tutelage of Ron Frost. Prior to his time at Multnomah, David and his wife Erin graduated from Western Michigan University. They’ve since been blessed with three wonderful children. Following his days at Multnomah he received his Masters of Theology at New College of the University of Edinburgh. In Scotland, David enjoyed reading Puritans who were captivated by God’s loved and wanted their followers “to warm their hearts by the fiery coals of God’s love.” Alongside his studies at New College, he also served as a Theology Network Associate Staff Worker with UCCF mentoring undergraduate theology students. Then David and his family returned to the United States to pastor youth in a rural church in eastern Oregon. Now David, as a missionary with Operation Mobilisation, has a role in leading a church plant in Chippenham, England.
For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk.