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Love that harms?
- Jacob Ninan
Much has been written about how the world has given such undue attention to erotic love that for most people the word 'love' has come to be associated only with that kind of love. But the fact is that even the ordinary love between people is misunderstood so much that much harm is being done in the name of love.
Think of parents who 'love' their children and give them whatever they ask for, because they don't want them to cry or throw tantrums. These parents think that it is love, when actually the children are fooling them into giving them what they want. Instead of training the children to say 'No' to what is bad for them, the parents are strenghtening the children's selfishness and guile. What about giving children 'freedom' to develop their own personality, without guiding them or drawing boundaries for them? These children who are born in sin like all of us can only become more established in sinfulness.
When our 'love' for someone becomes strong, we don't realise that our expectations from them also become stronger. We feel that since we have given them so much love they are obliged to do things for us in return! We may even make sacrifices for them hoping that this would obligate them to do things for us too. Sooner or later we would become disappointed because no one can meet all our expectations. It is fine for us to love them, but it is not love to demand love in return. There is a freedom and spontaneity in genuine love.
Why do we feel jealous when our 'best friends' become friendly with someone else also? We seem to think that our friends have to love us exclusively and have to be available at our beck and call.
What is the common factor in all this kind of love? Selfishness. This is the very opposite of what real love is. If we really love someone, we will be always seeking to do what is good for him, rather than for ourselves. God so loved the world that He gave in order to do us good (Jn.3:16). And what a lot He gave, so that we could be saved from our sin and hell and enjoy our life with Him forever! But just think how the very opposite of love is masquerading in the name of love and fooling a whole lot of us!
It is unnatural for us to think of others as being more important than ourselves (Php.2:3). By nature we all seek our own (Ro.3:12). That is why this kind of love that would lay down one's life for others is something that we can receive only from God (Jn.15:13;Ro.5:5). But God can help us to partake of this love if we let Him, and we seek for it. When we acknowledge how selfish and self-centred we are, and seek God to transform us, He will begin to work in us. Little by little we receive new attitudes and affections.
It is not that we will cease to be selfish and become loving altogether. Selfishness is so rooted in us that we will finally be free only when we receive our glorified bodies in heaven. But let us keep seeking God and going in that direction.