What is This Thing Called Love?
June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
“If an action be undertaken for an end other than Love of God, it be an end for nothing other than than Love of self; there is no alternative.” This rather pessimistic nugget seems inspired by someone down on humanity and exapserated with the limitations and imperfections of our human nature. But it was I who penned it; merely an hour ago as I attempted to sort out what I am naturally capable of my own accord and effort in seeking to fulfill my purpose in life to know and Love God. Its context revolved around a very different conception of God’s Grace than has been addressed in many of this Blog’s prior Posts. And this is the reason why I haven’t added any new Posts for a while now. I’ve been too caught up in my once promised goal of placing faith in the driver’s seat in lieu of reason. To that end, I’ve immersed myself in what faith has to say about attaining my life’s purpose and have, consequently, been focusing on Grace not as a description of Principles of Creation (or God’s Actions; see the prior Page “The Qualitative Theory of Truth”) but, rather, God’s purely gratuitous supernatural gift to me based on the merits of Christ which He offers for my Salvation. In this sense, Grace no longer merely entails an Attribute of God but now can be understood to consist also of a Power that He Bestows upon me.
Now, back to the stated quotation. While acts of self are obviously self-centered and undertaken to benefit me individually, it must be admitted that they are also capable of indirectly benefiting others as well. Thus, a paradox, in that selfish actions may positively effect someone other than myself. For example, consider a charitable act towards another person. It undoubtedly benefits them in some way. And I too am benefited. My pity towards them subsides; I feel an obligation has been met; I am praised by others. Regardless of the benefit which is realized, I in some way feel better about myself and perhaps the world. In this sense, my charity seems cheapened; insincere; inauthentic. But I cannot be faulted, for my motives arise merely as a consequence of my sinful nature and fallen state.
Other examples could further express the point. But what of my Love for others? My mother, father, sister, dear friend; or perhaps most profoundly, my children? Does explanation of an act of Love towards them and my Loving them in general entail some selfish motive? I sincerely hope not. But can I be sure? I would without doubt and unhesitatingly offer my life to spare theirs. However, can I state with certainty that this would be undertaken with a purely selfless perspective? Might my seemingly meritorious act be performed not out of selfless Love for them but, instead, some less praiseworthy motive? A duty, responsibility, or obligation, perhaps? Their and others Love and praise in return? The harrowing thought of a future knowledge and consequent feeling of guilt that their life could have been prolonged on my accord but wasn’t?
An explanation does present itself. Taking the cue from my purpose in life to know and Love God, this emotion, at least in its noblest unadulterated form, exists as a possibility within me, leading to fulfillment of that purpose. It is selfless; harbored for the object in itself and not as a means to some further end and dually acts as precursor and grounds to ultimately Love God in the same qualitative way. For as it is said, “God doesn’t make terms too hard for those who seek Him.” In this sense, I am groomed by my earthly Love of others for a possible future Heavenly and Eternal Love of Him. Thus, I serve and give to those I Love. I am accepting, compassionate, forgiving, and understanding of them. And God’s Providence prevails. Through a Love of others I position myself for knowing and Loving Him, thus fulfilling my purpose in life.
But how to make the leap from Love of others to a Love of God? In the prior Post, “Love – Material, Immaterial, and Divine”, I attempted to handle the question. While an answer was had, it now proves to be unsatisfactory in its ability to account for all but a relatively few fortunate peoples’ attaining to a genuine Love of God. It was proposed that the only way for this to be affected is through mystical experience or some type of direct and rationally discernible contact with God Himself. However, there must be a more accessible way. Enter God’s Grace. It bestows upon us innumerable gifts, perhaps the most profound and influential of which is an ability to make the leap from earthly Love to the Love of Him; from Material to Immaterial Love pursuant to the terms employed in the above mentioned Post, although I now acknowledge that these, like the demeanor of Immaterial Love itself, are too mechanical. Notwithstanding this, through Grace, the abyss is narrowed; the gulf closes; the chasm is filled; the distance is covered. I cannot attain this movement towards or arrive at a Love of God naturally as a result of my own efforts. Rather, this development is pure gift; God’s Beneficient Grace acting within me, compelling, inclining, and moving me towards a Love of Him for which I was Created.