August 23, 1994
Love is risky. We all know it. Boy meets girl and they fall in love, then one of them changes their mind and the other one is devastated. The risky side of love is that there is no guarantee of a return on the investment.
Love is also vital. It must be, because, for the most part, no matter the risks of falling in love, it still happens. Experiments prove that unloved children (and adults) have poorer health and some even die. Receiving love is a basic need. Giving love is also a basic need, as we shall see.
Because of pain after having their love rejected, a few people refuse to love again. For them, the risk was not worth it; their hearts have been broken. Without a return on their investment, they do not want to love anyone. It makes them too vulnerable to tragedy.
They are partly right. C. S. Lewis says it well: “To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, no even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin of your selfishness....”
Definitely the opposite of love is self-indulgence. As Lewis says, it is pampering the heart and making comfortable the body, refusing to take risks, and flat-out denying the love-needs of others.
The familiar words of John 3:16 stand out in stark contrast to this idea of holding back love. It describes how God made Himself vulnerable and took the risk of loving us. “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
God’s love is unlike ours. He did not concern Himself with getting strokes, enjoying hugs, receiving gifts, or basking in complements. His love gives – as demonstrated by Christ Himself. What more could God do to show He loves us than by giving His own life?
Further, He did it “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5). Since sinners are people who reject God and do not love Him, being loved in return was not the issue for God. Had it been, He would not have gave so much to people who were ultimately going to reject and crucify Him.
Scripture describes love, not as an emotion but as attitudes and actions. Both require decisions; read 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient—lovers decide to be patient. Love is kind—lovers choose kindness. Love does not hold grudges—lovers sometimes even acts apart from contrary inner feelings.
Followers of Christ must be committed to His kind of love. In fact, without love, Jesus said no one can be His disciple. He describes it as being willing to give up control, comfort, pride, and personal rights for the sake of God and the eternal good of others. It is a choice, a risky but vital decision.
Those not wanting to risk it, as C. S. Lewis says, will wind up clinging to their comfort, and guarding personal wants and rights carefully, locking them safely in the coffin of selfishness.
Lewis goes on: “But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--your heart will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”