One evening a while back in college at a Wednesday night Bible study we were talking about love or something related to it because at one point the question was asked, “How do you think the world views love?” When these types of questions are asked, “world” means “non-Christians,” as if believers are so inherently different from everyone else. Someone answered this question, saying, “I think the world views love as selfish, physical, and noncommittal.” Several people sitting in the room began to nod their heads in agreement, which was interesting. No one was considering the other side of that statement.
Sure, it’s easy to write off the world’s concept of love like that, but it’s not as if they’re the only ones subscribing to it. But when we make such polarizing statements, or rather, start off with such black-and-white questions as, “How do you think the world views love?” we’re giving credence to a presupposition which says Christians somehow do this whole love thing differently—or better—than the world does. In other words, we’ve put ourselves on the other side of the line in the sand, which means we think we don’t view love as selfish, physical, or noncommittal. Christians, then, usually respond, “Oh no now, I know I’m not perfect,” but the belief that this love differential exists and the subsequent disdain fostered towards the “worldly” realm expresses a confidence in our having it figured out a little better. But we know this isn’t true. Divorce runs rampant in the Church, and the very reason it does is because often Christian couples won’t get over their self-centeredness, lust, and refusal to honor promises. We’re just like everyone else.
But there exists a second problem with this bifurcation of love perspectives. If I believe the world views love as selfish, physical, and noncommittal, I’m stating my belief that the world doesn’t take love as seriously as I do, that they’re okay with those three errant definitions of love. Essentially, I’m proclaiming that adultery, broken commitments, and a refusal to deny oneself have no effect on the world. It doesn’t make them bleed. I’m saying the world is okay with those things and, perhaps even, likes them. But that’s such a lie. Infidelity hurts the non-Christian couple just as much as it does the man and woman trying to pursue God. Divorce still places scars upon the hearts of those who don’t give a second thought to the cross of Christ. “The world is okay with these things.” Please, no they’re not. Nobody likes brokenness. It hurts too much.
If we’re always down on those outside the stained-glass window, little is accomplished, other than helping the world continue to stew its disgruntled attitude towards the Church. At some point, we have to be critical about ourselves, twisting our wrist so as to shine the mirror on our own shortcomings and examine what it is in our own lives that could use some amelioration.
When the Church believes she has a monopoly on the ability to love, then she has two options: admit she’s wrong, or she’d better start getting her act together before a putrid collection of egg piles up on her face, which will end up turning people away. Think of it this way: it’s similar to America and her people touting themselves as the greatest nation on the face of the earth . . . and then obviously not being it and still proclaiming they’re the greatest. If the religious sector will make such outlandish claims on love and express disgust at how the world does it, then they’d better start backing it up. And that’s when (as aforementioned) the Church will throw up hands and say, “You can’t expect us to be perfect.” Exactly; hence, the reason such institutionalized absolutist statements can’t be made. We’ll never have an impact if we give the impression love and the pain of love are black and white, divided by a line that looks a lot like a steeple. It takes humility to admit that we, just like people outside the Church, fail at this game of love, too, that we don’t have it figured out, that we need help, which has a name: grace. And if we don’t walk alongside the world and administer that same grace, then perhaps we’re the ones who view love the wrong way.