Advent Reflections on Love

Lewis has a lot to say about love. As you know, The Four Loves threads through the love of a mother, of a lover, of a friend, and of God himself. Each love exhibits different qualities, with agape love as the definition and conclusion of all love. As John reminds us in I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” 

I love what he says in The Problem of Pain too: “God has no needs. Human love, as Plato teaches us, is the child of Poverty—of a want or lack; it is caused by a real or supposed good in its beloved which the lover needs and desires. But God’s love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all the goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative, lovability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense all His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive” (chapter 3).

And to pair with the reference above from I John, Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, ” In the higher mammals we get the beginnings of instinctive affection. That is not the same thing as the love that exists in God: but it is like it—rather in the way that a picture drawn on a flat piece of paper can nevertheless be ‘like’ a landscape. When we come to man, the highest of the animals, we get the completest resemblance to God which we know of. (There may be creatures in other worlds who are more like God than man is, but we do not know about them.) Man not only lives, but loves and reasons: biological life reaches its highest known level in him” (chapter 1). 

If we return to The Problem of Pain, Lewis helps us see how richly God loves us. He says, “But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God—though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little” (chapter 3). 

This reminds me of Ephesians 1:7-10: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Oh, and what a love that Jesus laid down the riches in heaven, as Philippians 2 tells us, in order to become the paradox of fully God and fully human, incarnate to show us this love. In The World’s Last Night, Lewis says, “A generation which has accepted the curvature of space need not boggle at the impossibility of imagining the consciousness of incarnate God. In that consciousness the temporal and the timeless were united. I think we can acquiesce in mystery at that point, provided we do not aggravate it by our tendency to picture the timeless life of God as, simply, another sort of time. We are committing that blunder whenever we ask how Christ could be at the same moment ignorant and omniscient, or how he could be the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps while he slept” (chapter 7). 

May we experience the love of Christ, in his Incarnation, in the cross, and in his resurrection, this Advent season.

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