The Complement of Too Much Love
What comes to mind when you think of God’s love? Perhaps we turn to Paul’s passage on selfless love, that it is kind and not irritable, that it never envies nor rude or arrogant… that it doesn’t ever end (I Corinthians 13). Maybe we use flowery language and compare it to a summer’s day like Shakespeare’s sonnet.
Anything we can think or imagine is a veiled description of God’s actual love for us, his incarnate, miraculous, sacrificial love. The Bible says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
As you probably know, Lewis has quite a bit to say about love. In fact, he has a whole book dedicated to four different loves and he also rides through a book on the medieval tradition with the banner “An Allegory of Love” as his theme! But I want to hone in on one passage in The Problem of Pain Chapter 3, where Lewis reminds us that God doesn’t need anything–our love, affection, belief–but he wants everything good for us. He wants his will to be present in our lives, “for our own sakes,” as he puts it. We are designed for it, and, “when we reach it [our] nature is fulfilled and [our] happiness attained: a broken bone in the universe has been set, the anguish is over.”
“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus says, “that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And this is what he did. Lewis says, “When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy.” Our affections, our love, our hopes are misplaced. And the demands made, Lewis reminds us, are from someone who loves us and is not a despot –”He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration.” And then he says this great truth:
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.
In the season of new beginnings, let us love more fully the one who wants only our good.