Keeping the Faith

Putting Love in the Headlines

A guy I know asked me to write about love.

I don’t usually take requests and, up to this point, if someone has asked me to consider writing about something, it’s been to promote an event or illuminate a cause. Not that there’s anything wrong with events and causes – it’s just that I’m familiar with requests tied to agendas.

So I was a bit surprised when this friend asked me to write about love. In the midst of his life story that had only recently taken a sad and cruel twist, he wanted to hear about love. When bitterness and anger could have ruled his thoughts, he was talking about love. He wanted to read about love in the context of a newspaper where all of love’s foes tend to play the lead characters: war, racism, violence, relationship breakdown, intolerance and hate. Love was what he wanted to hear.

Who could turn down such a request?

I wish love made headlines more often too. Not love in a needy, sexual or even romantic way. Just plain love for fellow human beings – no strings, no agenda. I guess love is such a risk. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote this:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Every so often there’s a letter to the editor, the like of which I’m sure is found in every regional newspaper. It reads, “To the man who stopped and helped get my car started again – thank you!” They’re little love notes, vignettes that reveal unexpected entanglements. “I don’t know who you are, but thank you for handing my wallet in to the police station, still with $200 inside – I’m so grateful!”

Small things. Big impact.

In Melbourne a month back, we were trying to wrestle our pram onto the waiting tram (with the child still strapped in!). I wouldn’t recommend it. But a burly bloke jumps up and takes my end, lithely lifting the darn thing over our heads, over the ‘safety’ railing. Again, it was a small thing, but I distinctly remember the rush of warmth that spread from my chest at being on the receiving end of such a kind gesture.

To love is to truly live. It’s to take a risk, to be vulnerable and give a little bit of yourself knowing you will receive so much more in return. Because to live without the love found in human relationship is as empty as that casket Lewis wrote about.

Things will heat up again soon in Tasmania, with the Legislative Council set to consider social reforms including abortion and same sex marriage. They’re divisive topics that have at times sucked all love dry, instead revealing hateful dichotomies. I’d just like to say that we can have our differences with love still in the room.

It’s impossible to do love justice in 600 words – Jesus did it spectacularly in 33 years. His model of love was articulated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and is still so relevant today.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday June 3, 2013.

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