Sunday, February 14, 2021

What's Love Got to Do with It?

 It’s Valentine’s Day and I am wondering about the future of love.

 At the grocery store yesterday, one might say the future of love was on display. Dozens and dozens of roses and other flowers, to be bought to express love.  I bought some myself.  Perhaps it is true, those flowers say, that love between individuals is as strong as it has ever been.

 But that is not the kind of love I am wondering about this afternoon.

 I’m not saying anything is wrong with that kind of love—the love that exists between individuals, within families and across friendships.  I know that kind of love, and I can say without being overly sentimental that love has in the past formed who I am and even saved me.  It, in truth, continues to do so.

 But, again, that is not the kind of love I am wondering about today.  Although my wondering also includes Tina Turner’s immortal question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

 I am wondering about love that will save, but the kind of love that will not only save me but will save us.

 We seem stuck in our country, fellow citizens not only unable to agree on much, but also unable to talk to each other or respect one another.  It seems that we cannot even agree on just who is worthy of being called a fellow citizen, who, even, gets to decide just who a citizen is and who is not.

 “Friending” and “unfriending” on Facebook seems to express the dynamics of our relationship to one another, especially when it is a choice, as it often is, of who I will listen to and who I will not listen to.

 I am wondering about the kind of love that is strong enough to break through that “life as choosing up sides” model.  There is nothing easy about this kind of love.  I myself have said in the past, “It is not worth my time even trying to talk to those people.”  As a Christian I know that saying such a thing is simply sin, even though it might feel entirely justified at the time.  I am a follower of Jesus whose most basic teaching was to love God with everything I have and my neighbor as myself. And I know, try as I might, I cannot finesse “neighbor” to mean anything other than the next person who crosses my path.

 I think the fundamental building block for this kind of love is respect, although even this word has come to mean “agree with.”  So there is something deeper, and it is a kind of bottom-line belief, without which society cannot be stable, much less functional.  That is the belief in the dignity of every person, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

 The love that will save us starts there:  your dignity and mine on the same level without reservation.

 There is nothing easy about this belief.  I think that has always been true; it certainly is true in our day.  The love that is required for me to live out this belief is sacrificial in nature.  To respect your dignity above all other things means I must sacrifice my natural tendency to judge you, to make decisions about your worth.  I know for myself that it can be painful to make this sacrifice, so painful that I often choose not to do it.

 To respect your dignity, to love you in this way, does not mean to agree with you.  It is not some utopian vision of social uniformity.  That we will disagree—and sometimes strongly so—is a given.

 The question is can I disagree with you without cutting you out of my life, refusing to listen to you, resort to my most base instincts to call you stupid, or a fool, or, in citizenship terms, unpatriotic or even traitorous.  Can I hold some very strong beliefs about what is best for the world and still be willing to listen to your equally held strong beliefs.  Of course, listening must always be a two-way street.

 A lot of rhetoric gets thrown around these days about whether if we follow any given path we will have a country or not.

 I’m wondering about love today—the belief in universal human dignity—and I’m thinking without it all our dire predictions will come true.

 What’s love got to do with it?  Everything or nothing.  It’s our choice.

1 comment:

Carolyne said...

Thanks. Fr Michael. This is helpful in a faraway family situation where we cannot even start to bring up politics. There is no dialogue - absolutely none--so all we can do is to love and respect all the other facets of the relationship,