In the last post, I introduced a potential conflict between two ideas: There there is a love that deserves devotion and yet requires no devotion.
I’d like to submit that there is only one kind of love that deserves devotion. This would have to meet certain qualifications:
1. It must be without added condition or end
How terrible is love that relies on certain conditions! Humans experience this all the time. How many of us have been in love only to have our beloved become displeased with us and withdraw from relationship?Unrequited love is one of the worst experiences anyone can have. It is pure agony. The only cure, as we know it, is to stop loving and move on. Similarly, the manipulative, abusive person who loves only when you dance to their tune leads to a life of pain. The only cure is, yet again, to leave.
But, a persistent love, which has no expiration or withdrawal, would be so worthwhile. If it can end, then any investment in it will be lost. If it can end, we are only living a temporary fantasy. If it never ends, there can be only peace and comfort of unfailing love. This leads us to our next qualification:
2. It must be beneficial to the lover and the beloved
If love only is to the benefit of the lover, it can only ever be manipulative. It can only be used to serve his own pleasure, even at the expense of the beloved. One might say that this isn’t truly love, and you would be correct, but in our English concept of the word, we can easily imagine one who ‘loves’ someone only for his own benefit. It shows us both how our concept of love is distorted and how our words have many meanings.
If love only results in benefit to the beloved, noble as this may be, it will never be peaceful or comforting. It will constantly bring suffering to the lover, who must expense himself for the sake of his beloved.
However, a love that benefits the lover by doing the loving and benefits the beloved by being loved, certainly a difficult task, would be a love worthwhile. An unending love that benefits the lover and the beloved, in of itself, doesn’t require devotion to be perfectly justifiable, but wouldn’t such a love reward devotion? This leads us to our next point:
3. It must reward devotion
A love that doesn’t reward devotion isn’t worth devoting yourself to. What’s the point? You already have an endless love that is beneficial to all involved parties, why devote yourself to it?
Love must reward devotion if it is to be worth devotion.
4. It’s fulfillment must always result in a perfectly optimal outcome
By fulfillment, I mean complete reciprocity from all parties, reciprocating all the above characteristics. If the endless, beneficial, and rewarding love does not bring you to the best possible outcome, then you would be better off searching for a better one.
This is as equally important as the others, as a relationship that is only mediocre in it’s outcome, or even slightly sub-optimal, is not worth a final or ultimate commitment. But, a love which, when in relationship, results in a perfectly optimal outcome, there is, by definition, no other love worth a second of your time.
So, many of you are probably reading this and you believe you get the point. A reader might say, “Yes, we understand that this is the best love ever and the gospel is super great, etc,” with empty agreement or mocking boredom.
I would like to give one more point for consideration.
Neither Jesus’ life, death, nor resurrection added or took away any of these qualifications to the definition of perfect love. If God was not real, these qualifications would remain.
What God did through Jesus was change the optimal outcome, as in point number 4.
The optimal outcome before this was to live as optimally as you could and hope that such devotion was enough to actually be considered a reciprocity, so that you could experience the optimal outcome.
The new optimal outcome is the full reconciliation of everyone and everything. That is the ultimate conclusion of the gospel. This is the outcome whether you participate or not. A perfect (or optimal) world is just within reach (or “at hand”) and it will be made.
How this will happen is debatable, but let us think the implications through for a moment:
– If this reconciled world is so perfect, you cannot be imperfect and still take part in it, or else you would mess it up.
– If you are not perfect, you either need to be changed to become perfect or kept out of the perfect world in order to preserve the perfect world’s perfection. (Note: this does not necessitate eternal torment)
– In order to contribute and be a part of such an optimal outcome, you would have to believe in it, for if you did not, there would be no point in pursuing it at all. You would necessarily have to pursue a different outcome, for humans can only ever pursue what they believe is optimal. (You might argue with me here, but even if someone did something “they knew they shouldn’t”, they wouldn’t do so unless they believed it to be worth doing).
And here is where we come to the crux of our opposing ideas. If God is truly bringing about an optimal world through His love, there is literally nothing else worth your devotion. The gift of a perfect world is definitely free, as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection came at no cost to anyone save God. However, to participate in it, to bring about the optimal result, you must actually believe that Jesus is who He said He is, the divine harbinger of the optimal outcome.
Even the very admission of this is enough for Jesus to stand by you for the rest of time and be your advocate. His love for us is so unrequited, so agonizing for Him, that the even the very recognition of who He is will ensure His advocacy for you to be in a perfect world, even though you know that on your own, you would probably mess up such a world, the same way that we all mess up the world around us in our own ways.
We each have a choice: we can continue searching for something that is optimal or creating it for ourselves, or we can start, each day, do what we can to conform to the optimal outcome that has been laid before us, in the life of Jesus. I’m tired of seeing Christians beg for the world to end when they should love it so dearly that they want to bring about the most optimal world they can, through imitating Jesus.
When the perfect world comes about, it will either be a relief, a rude awakening, or an abomination to you, depending on what you believe and how you act. Which one is the most optimal for you, do you suppose?
This probably leaves a lot of questions to readers of different backgrounds, feel free to ask them. I will be continuing to talk about this with specifics, such as what an optimal world entails according to Jesus and what it means to transform ourselves/be born again/crucify our flesh nature.
(As a side note, I’m sure there are readers who might be thinking that their sub-optimal marriage is worth their devotion as well. They would certainly be right, but the goal should be making their marriage optimal by imitating the perfect love of God. In this imitation, there should be harmony with the devotion to God’s optimal love. But, I’m not married, so what do I know?)