Monday, February 13, 2012

God's Redemptive Love Creates a Company of Love-Sharers

Tree, in my backyard

This morning I'm reading from Lewis Smedes's Love Within Limits, ch. 3, "Love Is Not Jealous." Here are some quotes, with my thoughts. Personally, I am praying for an inner love-revolution. I want to love like Jesus loves. And because only a free person can love like that, with the love of Jesus comes freedom. And release from fear.

Jealousy is a kind of fear. It is also a kind of pain. "Jealousy is a feeling of pain at losing touch with someone we love because he or she has been stolen away by someone else." (22)

All who love anything and anyone must be prepared for the appearance of jealousy. Let me explain. The year was 1971. I had fallen in love with Linda. One night I was at her home. There was a knock on the door. One of her old boyfriends was paying a visit. I felt threatened. (= jealousy) He came in. They talked. Linda shared that she was now dating me. (My jealousy slightly, but only slightly, receded.) He then says, "I understand. Nevertheless, I would like to take you out on a date." (My fiery jealousy just got a bucket of gasoline poured on it!) She said, "No, thank you." With that, my mortal enemy said good-bye and walked out the door. I am on fire before Linda.

"Jealousy is aimed at someone who threatens us, threatens to take away someone we love." (24) This distinguishes jealousy from envy. "The people we envy are not a threat to us; they only happen to have what we would like to have." (Ib.) Because love wants total possession of its object, jealousy cannot share even one tiny part with others. For this reason a computer, or a TV, can become a hated object because it steals time from us with the beloved.

Is jealousy, therefore, evil? Not in itself. God, writes Smedes, is a "model of jealousy." "I the Lord your God am a jealous God" - God, from Mt. Sinai. God "is jealous for himself. He feels pain when he shares his people with idols." (26) Idols are fantasies; non-existent "gods." God "has no intentions of playing games with nonentities... [God will not] share those whom he loves with a hoax, a nothing, an illusion. But he will share his people with other people." Yikes!

I know that is true. I am certain that is how things should be. God's "redemptive love creates a company of love-sharers." (Ib.) This is why real love, the love of God, is not jealous. This is what the Bible calls "agape love." Smedes is brilliant here. He writes:

"Love is the inner power to be happy when someone else shares your friend. Love is the power to rejoice in the superior talent, success, or power of someone close to you." (27)

I am a good guitarist. Many are better. I not only know this, I have no problem with this. A month ago Linda and I saw guitar maestro Lee Ritenour in Detroit. I was awe-struck. I cannot play like that. I loved watching him play. But I have not always done so well, especially many years ago, when someone knocks on the door and enters my little world where "I" am the guitar player and they pick up the guitar and are better than me, and people are giving them attention and praise. They could be the most humble person in the world, yet my jealous heart is heating up.

That is what I want removed, permanently, from my soul. Real God-love overcomes self-pity and insecurity and suspicion. "This love is the power of sharing without being threatened." (27)

It's a bad sign when a person says words like "I can't live with you," or "I can't live without this." Smedes writes: "The person who tells someone else, "I can't live without you," is threatened at his deepest selfhood when the one with whom he cannot live is shared in the smallest way. Such a person always suspects the worst, and this very suspicion prods him to cruel reactions." Non-agapic jealous love is cruel.

The cure for the jealous heart is to be jealous only for God. Expect from God; do not expect too much from another person. Agape love keeps us from expecting everything in this life. "It is the power to share even a loved one, to be thankful that someone else can discover the very qualities in a friend or spouse that you so much appreciate. It is the power, too, to admit cheerfully that you cannot meet all the needs of your loved one or friend and are pleased that someone else can add what you lack." (29)

Such love is not jealous. It is the power of sharing.