Resources for Growth in Love
A discussion of the value of self-reflection, Scripture, and Christian community in becoming more loving.
This is a personal question, but what sources do each of you turn to for seeking that kind of enrichment? Looking to sources of learning to enrich your understanding of love, but then, hopefully, see that work itself out into actions. Who do you read, who are you inspired by?
In my case, I’m not sure. My first response was ongoing self reflection is really important because one of the strange things about love, like with many other things, I could start off with really good intentions, like I’m helping my kids to do something. It begins with their best interest, but somewhere along the line, it becomes my self interest. I take over their project. So unless I’m monitoring myself, my love gets twisted or distorted or malformed. And so, self-awareness is part of that.
Sounds like just being mindful. There’s a rich work in psychology around mindfulness and its ability to help improve our own wellbeing. But perhaps being mindful also improves others wellbeing insofar as we can remain reflective, as you say.
But then I also want to turn it into, I’m primarily a Lutheran theologically, so I think Luther was a profound psychologist, among other things. But he talks about drawing on Paul’s language of being baptized in Christ. Luther talks about this being an ongoing daily need to be re-baptized. So I die with Christ so I become aware of my distorted, selfish alterations of love and I allow myself to die with Christ and be risen unto that. So that’s that participation motif that’s become more prominent in recent years in theology. And it’s also the cross, which I think is at the heart of my understanding of love. So dying and rising again on an ongoing basis is part of how I think I become more loving.
I think my answer to the resources is gonna sound cliche, gonna sound yeah, I figured you’d say that, but I’ll say it anyway, because it really is true. Resources: scripture, I think the Bible can help us. I’m not saying the Bible is consistently clear on this issue, there’s some passages that I think do a poor job of reflecting what love ought to be like.
But the overall mess description, the preponderance of biblical passages I find helpful. Particularly wise Christians in the Christian tradition, exemplars of love throughout history. Contemporary science in theology and philosophy that explores these things. I spend a lot of time reading Alan’s work and other people’s work. That is motivating for me, thinking through the issues. But then the practices, you know?
Being a part of a Christian community. I happen to be very fortunate to be part of a small church that does a very good job of loving me, my family, and others. Participating in the typical worship and sacraments, all these kinds of things you’d expect a theologian to say. [laughs] But I say them because they really are true for me in my life. They really do make a difference. It’s not an exhaustive list, but those are the things that I draw upon often as I try to think through what love means and then live that consistently in my life.