Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Love is spiritual; that is, it does not reduce to any construct of physical, emotional, or mental elements. But we do have an intuitive sense of what love is like and how it works.
Earthly life is the Love Lab where we learn to love and to be loved. We need both; these go together like breathing in and breathing out.
That inbreath begins with our birth. Warmth and sweet tastes are not the same as being loved; but that's how we recognize it initially. Love flowing in becomes love (and other things) flowing out -- unless there's an obstruction in the flow.
At least in this age, there seems to sooner-or-later always be an obstacle. Certain people love us yet many many of us typically don't entirely feel loved, not loved the way we need by the people we need to be loved by... (They've got problems of their own -- too busy, too stressed, want to give more than circumstances allow) -- and that feeling persists, comes to light in odd ways.
Diabetes and heart trouble... The physiologist has a chemical explanation for why these are linked -- but here we are again talking about sweet tastes and being loved! Valentine hearts full of chocolate. Taking precisely two cookies from the plate. Sneaking that third cookie. And more, more! Trying to give and take equal portions of ice cream, while hoping we'll get the biggest without trying, wishing we weren't so crazily twisted about these things.
I fast for two weeks and I'm a saint. I take my first bite afterwards and I'm a glutton again!
Gaining weight at the refreshment table after Meeting...
Love and indulgence... not at all the same things -- But indulgence is the easiest way we know to embody love, both for others and for ourselves.
Some people pampered, some people malnourished. Obesity and all its discontents. Pains, fears, hoarding and guilt. Technologies that make some things too easy and other things impossible. We can't give these up because doing without them feels too much like being unloved -- and yet these things aren't love and don't satisfy, but only addict.
Diseases of appetite, diseases of personal and social interaction... People destroy the world we need to live in, because no matter how much they eat of it it's not enough.
And yet there continues to be love, in us and around us. It just isn't easy, to give or receive or admit to... yet.
Here we're given the challenges needed to develop the love, faith, and faith in lovedness people so clearly need. Why else would the lack of these things be so widely evident?
Not only is love spiritual, it is a spiritual organism. It can grow or die, though it's practically impossible to kill it for good.
Is music its food (as in the play) and can it overeat? Not just kidding here: If the need to know lovedness is at the root of our (individual and collective) diseases then there's evidently a drive to nourish that...
"Love" and "lovedness" ... two ends of that same organism?
I'm not talking about "love" as a human ideal but about whatever really is there: Does this work like 'giving' and 'receiving', "two" things which turn out to depend on each other? That is, given that God loves we must be receiving love, whether or not we realize it.
It's more like a muscle. The more exercise it gets the stronger it gets. No exercise and it withers.
So far as love is like a power, I don't think it's our power (like it would be our muscle.) More like the higher mind: We develop a curiosity, an appetite to understand something by working on it awhile -- and then God shows us how it is. A profoundly true idea could never "belong" to anyone. Likewise with love, yes?
God is love. So that of God in us is love. We can use the God within or ignore God. With use God grows stronger and Jesus' prayer in John 17 gets answered.
Anybody/anything that isn't loving must be something else... but reducing God to an ideal simply leaves out too much.
You can't, for another thing, "use" God within. God within uses us (even though we'll likely need to contribute the necessary grunt-&-groan.)
And we can't make God one bit stronger than God has been all along. There are things we can do that give God a little more to work with (but Who gave us that idea? )
Go back to where you started. Love isn't an ideal. It's spiritual. God gives us grace to exercise but we have the choice to accept it or not. It's about the Lord's prayer which isn't the 'Our Father" but His prayer in John 17. You aren't "using" God within. You are becoming more like Him spiritually. I think the pertinent bible verse is that you are becoming a "new creation in Him" as you move from a self-centered driven spirit to a servant driven spirit.
So what we've got aren't definitions of love , but examples of how it manifests. We need those examples because that's the way we recognize a spiritual reality, by its embodiments (or as Jesus put it re people, its fruits.)
To say "God gives us grace" makes the situation sound too much like 'God over there' does something to us 'separate over-here' so that people (cast as basically unGodly beings) can decide all-by-ourselves to 'accept it or not'.
It's one way of saying that God sometimes stretches people's minds and deeds beyond whatever we've known and experienced in our strictly personal capacities -- which serves to develop us toward accepting greater stretches as life goes on.
I just don't find it a particularly illuminating way to describe what happens. We may think we're accepting-or-rejecting Grace as separated beings; and that choice certainly affects the course of our lives; but we don't make choices as separated beings (merely as beings imagining we have some separate life of our own.)
Jesus (so far as I can remember) says flat-out zilch about "Grace." He says "your Father," "our Father."
Someone's child (in the culture of Jesus' time) could certainly be called on to do the chores, including some pretty heavy-lifting at that. But the word for someone's 'servant' would be 'slave'. I don't think it's the same relationship at all.
One could work just as hard (or harder) for love than for constraint or obligation. But that isn't a child's purpose, just something he/she might sometimes be called on to do.
John isn't a transcript of anything Jesus said or did. It's other people's later interpretation of Jesus overall intention. Sometimes they got things right; but like me, sometimes they didn't. The Synoptics will get you much closer to himself...
To hoard or steal the fruits of lovedness is a sign that one is failing to realize the power of God's love... and is the root of everything that could rightly be called 'sin' or 'fallenness'.
In the Bad Fruit story, the problem is not 'disobedience' but failure to recognize love and wisdom in that initial prohibition. The very thought: "This is a good thing, I should take it" was the Fall. The apple was "stolen" because we felt less than loved. And the first real crime to materialize from that was murder motivated by jealousy.
What were that tree and that pesky snake doing in the Garden? They were providing necessary growing-pains, a chance for humanity to 'run away from home' and see what 'independence' feels like. (But now that we've been through that, and are living with the results? -- Now what?)
The seven deadly sins are so deadly precisely because we love to indulge in them so much. The wages of over-eating are indeed all the pains of morbid obesity. Yet eating may seem such a comfort and don't we feel more loved when taken care of.
The Chinese Buddha has a belly as an indication of his achieving spiritual satisfaction, but then what good is enlightenment if we're meanwhile starving to death, right?
The promise of salvation is a next life (afterlife) in which we work in accordance with God's Will and that comes with its own (not so sinful) benefits package.
Fubonn Supermarket, Portland, Oregon
People do love to indulge things we consider sinful; but that isn't the problem.
Let's use opioids as an example. These are painkillers. People who love to indulge in them are people in pain -- whether physical or emotional makes little difference to the effect. The strength of the appeal, for people in pain, makes taking these things seductively dangerous. But it's the pain that powers that downhill drive.
And the persistence of that influence depends on whether a person is suffering later damage to a relatively securely-loved orientation to life -- or whether his life from early on has been built on a foundation of anxiety.
It isn't that you'll find me passed out from shooting cookie crumbs... (Diabetes, though? I understand people do pass out from that, if that actually sets in.) The point is that normal drives, when linked into a lack of emotional comfort (current or habitual) turn into perverse motivators.
Buddha's got a tummy because he ain't fasting anymore. He's given up the ascetic trip because he's seen through it, seen through that and the addiction to comfort that motivated it, both.
I don't know what most people's notion of salvation looks like; I haven't had time to ask most people. But Jesus was talking about cooperating with God's will in the ongoing life we always have, in this world or any.