Friday, July 22, 2011

Love, Romance and Redemption

Countless people are looking for love.  Our deep, understandable need has created a growth industry.
Books promise to show us how to make people to fall in love with you, how to avoid falling in love with a jerk, how to find your soul mate, and how to escape love that hurts.
We’ve seen a proliferation of online dating services.  
There’s eHarmony, match.com, chemistry.com, perfectmatch.com, and spark.com to name just a few of the apparently helpful, reputable ones. 
They promise that you’ll find someone special in six months.  Long-lasting relationships are their goal.  Some of these sites even offer relationship advice from “recognized experts.”

I am not a scoffer at any of this.  Well, maybe I do roll my eyes about a couple of book titles and cringe at the seamier dating services.  But loneliness is very real and terribly painful.  God never meant for us to be alone.  (Genesis 2:18)
The absence of affection, companionship, support and respect from other people drains our lives of joy.  Our problem is not our desire for such things.  It’s what we want the love of a good man or a good woman to do for us.

We want it to save us.  To redeem us.  To make us feel at home in our own skin, to erase our sense of emptiness, to secure our desire for significance, to assure us that we are valuable, to relieve us of our guilt, and to heal us of emotional pain.
In other words, we want some other person to be our hidden treasure.  Our pearl of great price.  To play the role Christ’s reign in our lives.  Here’s what Jesus says about his reign, about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.  (Matthew 13:44-46)
Jesus himself actually encourages us to pin our hopes on one big love.  One thing that we would sacrifice all else to have (if it came to that).  
His warning is clear, however.  Just make sure that it’s the right thing.  The right person.  Because only one person can really satisfy this infinite desire.  Pinning our hopes on anything else will inevitably reveal that thing as inadequate or destroy it.
This same lesson applies to career, fame, family, achievements in sports or school, social position, power and sex, but in this context let’s stick with romantic love.
If we expect our husband or wife to make us feel valuable and safe, to heal our hurts and to drive away our fears, our relationships will groan and eventually break under an unbearable weight.  
We cannot guarantee anyone else’s significance or insure their uninterrupted joy.  And no one can do this for us.  If we live together with this expectation we will always disappoint each other.
Instead, Jesus summarizes the Law for us.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  (Matthew 22:37)
On the Cross we see that Jesus loves us with abandon.  We already have the love we seek.  Our spiritual struggle is to surrender to that love.  That is our hidden treasure and our pearl of great price.
When we surrender to Christ’s love for us, we can love in the way we were originally designed to love.  The Summary of the Law continues, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:39)
For our husband or wife, we become the earthly, fleshly sign of God’s redeeming love.  
Frail and intermittent as our merely human love is for each other, when we know ourselves to be Christ’s beloved our finite, imperfect love for each other points to a love that never quits.  Never fails.  The redeeming love of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
(The image above is Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" at Artcyclopedia)

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