Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Living with Lewis: Loves and gods

Before launching into the real content of his book, Lewis gives one last warning in his introduction to The Four Loves regarding the difference between human love and God's love, one which I find especially helpful. He warns us to be careful not to let love take the place of God in our lives. Love is a good thing: it pulls us out of our own selfishness, it transforms us, it helps us to put others above ourselves, it brings us into deep, meaningful relationships. But love is not God. God is love. If we give love the place of God in our lives, if we obey it completely, if we put it above all else...we will ultimately find ourselves in trouble. Lewis writes:
"We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods; then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred" (8).
Throughout the introduction, Lewis has set up this idea of "need-love" and "gift-love," the first arising from our need and fragility as human beings demonstrated in the love of a child for its mother or our love for God, the second being freely given out of fullness for the sake of the beloved demonstrated by the love of a mother for her child or God's love for us. The need-loves aren't so dangerous- we will never mistake them for God. But the gift-love, so near to God by likeness (not necessarily approach) can get us into trouble. Lewis, in the rest of the book, will continue to repeat this saying by M. Denis de Rougemont that love "begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god" (6). Mere human loves, exalted to divinity, will become ugly, selfish, and distorted. Lewis finishes his introduction by saying this:
"The human loves can be glorious images of Divine love. No less than that: but also no more- proximities of likeness which in one instance may help, and in another may hinder, proximity of approach" (9)
Human loves can draw us toward or away from God. We (with God's help) are the ones who decide which way our love takes us.

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