"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Good Quote: Active Love

Posted in Stuff I'm Reading, Theological by matt on Monday, January 26, 2009

I’m currently rereading Dostoevsky’s masterpiece The Brothers Karamozov and ran across a few passages worth mentioning. In this part of the story a woman has confessed to the devout Father Zosima that she has lost her faith in God and asks him how she might be “re-convinced”. He responds this way (I edited it a bit):

“By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you’ll be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul. And if you reach complete selflessness in the love of your neighbor, then undoubtedly you will believe . . .”

And a bit later in their conversation…

“Never be frightened at your own faintheartedness in attaining love, and meanwhile do not even be frightened by your own bad acts. I am sorry that I cannot say anything more comforting, for active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in watching. Indeed, it will go so far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.”

I want to love this way; I want to study this active love “science”. I want God to help me rethink and reform my motivations for loving others. But the contrast between these two loves is stark and complicated. It’s not as simple as selflessness vs. selfishness because they can both provide external benefits to the person loving and those being loved. One is a performance and the others a way of life, and it’s much easier to change my way of life than the occasional performance.

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