Cannibals Don't Love You
|How we define terms in the 21st Century|
Love is a sweet and simple thing.
Until you put it into practice.
Everyone agrees that the world would be a jollier place if there were a few more pints of love to go around. But we get ourselves into a muddle on two points.
The first is an actual definition of love. The second is how we get and sustain it.
Love is a popular term. But when you request a definition, you get little more than a ‘Ummmm… you know. Right? It’s like, obvious’ or, if you're speaking to one of the cool kids, 'Love is love'. Yes. And thank you to our government funded educational system for that eloquent response.
How about is love used popular parlance?
You love hip-hop. We love Mexicans. She loves her husband. He loves tacos. She loves ‘50 Shades’. They love the Aryan race. We love God. I love burritos. He loves porn films.
Truth is, what we humans call ‘love’ is anything but clear. Take cannibalism as an example (as you do). Contra the whole Hannibal (Silence of the Lambs) thing, Cannibals don’t just ‘eat the rude’―i.e. their enemies. Rather, cannibalism usually comes into a culture through admiration.
|'I only eat the rude.'|
Want to be brave like that warrior you admire? When he dies in battle, eat his flesh. Want to be smart like that genius over there? Eat their brains. Cannibalism usually starts as an act of worship. Want to be pure and wash away your guilt? Eat that innocent child.
Cannibalism is the end result of human love divorced from the governance of God. And though we may not actually eat a person’s body, we know over relationships in which one person consumes the life out of another. This relational cannibalism is part and parcel of our narcissism.
Perhaps you’re the cannibal in the relationship. You do not sincerely care for the other person’s flourishing. Rather, the dynamic of the relationship is what you can get from them: their comfort, their sex, their encouragement, their advice. When you don’t need that person, you simply put them on the shelf and ignore. You say you love them. But what you really mean is that you love yourself through them. You consume them to nourish yourself.
Love like that can be 87% hatred and still say ‘I love you’ with emotion. Such human affection is the deadliest thing on the planet. If human hatred has slain its thousands, human love has slain its tens of thousands.
An exaggeration you say?
Think. What has left the biggest wounds in your life? The attacks of an open enemy? Or, has it been the betrayal, the desertion, the lies, or the reckless words of someone you were in a love relationship with? Be it romance, family, or friends, these affections, marred by sin, leave the biggest scars.
But, perhaps more helpful than a mere dictionary definition, Christ gives us a picture and model of love; one that sacrificially seeks the good of the other.
And this leads us to the second issue of where to find healthy love. We learn about love through Christ. The One who laid down His life for his enemies (us). He speaks hard truths which offend―but He does so for our good. He is faithful, not deserting us when our nights get dark.
If we do not know the vertical love of a holy God for an unholy people, then our horizontal, human love will wither into something putrid. Like a fine piece of fruit plucked from the tree and left in the heat, it will eventually perish.
|Love demands sacrifice|
Love rots the quickest when we make a god out of it. Eros is not a deity that is easily tamed and Philia is one that is can be undependable at the worst of times. We worship human love, we make sacrifices at its altar―and then it devours us.
To paraphrase a Frenchman I think I once read (but whose name I can’t remember), if love is to ever stop being a demon, it must first stop being a god. This what Jesus meant when he said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.’ Why does Jesus make a demand that seems so outrageous to our fallen ears? Because He wants to free us. We cannot use human love as a tool to bless others with―and to enjoy ourselves―if we are a slave to it.
The cannibals aren’t entirely misguided. They know they have needs and that virtuous life from the outside must pass into them so that they can be whole. They’ve simply pursued the wrong meal. There is only One whose flesh can be food and whose blood can be drink. And fortunately, He loves us enough to give Himself for us. When we are satisfied in His life-giving love, we have the power to love, and not simply consume, others. And we can do so with a power that will not whither.
For more on Christian love, check out our book Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform