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 have a couple of challenges in regards to this four-letter word. The first is an actual definition of love. Love is a popular term. But, when you request a definition, you get little more than a 'Ummmm… you know. Right?
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 precise. Take cannibalism (as you do). Contra the whole Hannibal (Silence of the Lambs) thing, Cannibals don't just 'eat the rude'―i.e. their enemies. Instead, cannibalism usually comes into a culture through admiration. 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 result of human love divorced from the governance of God. And, though we may not actually eat a person's body, we know 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 put them on the shelf and ignore. You say you love them, but what you 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.
An exaggeration you say? Think. What has left the most significant 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 with whom you were in a love relationship?
We experience self-less love in Christ. His Cross is a wrecking ball to our narcissism. Christ laid down His life for his enemies (us) and though he speaks hard truths, he does so for our good. Christ 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 beautiful piece of fruit plucked from the tree and left in the heat, our self-centred tendencies wilt much of the love we find in this world.
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, we have the power to love others without consuming them.
For more on Christian love, check out our book Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform