"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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Unconditional Love

Posted in Theological by matt on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The head pastor of my church had a random one-liner that blew me away the other day. It’s simple, but if you’ve ever wondered about evil and it’s purpose w/in God’s presumably loving plan then hopefully you’ll find it helpful.

He said, Without sin, unconditional love could not exist.

Since I’m obsessed w/ them, I’ll use a syllogism to elaborate:

Premise A: Sin is a reality. It is choosing not to love or placing a condition on one’s love for another.

Premise B: God cannot sin.

Conclusion: Therefore perfect, unconditional love exists (in God).

Funny how the things at church that impact me the most are often said in passing during the announcements…

Love: Particular vs. Universal

Posted in Questions For You, Theological by matt on Thursday, August 28, 2008

I was recently sprawled out on the floor of an airport terminal eating Thai noodles while awaiting my flight. Between mouthfuls I paused and said aloud, “I love Thai food.” After uttering this profound statement I realized what a chach I am for saying this out loud in a busy airport. However, just a few minutes later I decided to add, “In fact…I think I love all food!”

Now, let’s consider the two simple options:

(a) Matt loves all food – if it’s edible, he loves it. His affection is not limited to one taste or style, it’s universal. His love for food is unhindered and unprejudiced.

(b) Matt particularly loves Thai food. In the realm of edibility it is the supreme object of his affection and other tastes can’t even begin to compare (this isn’t true, but go with me here). His love for Thai food is personal and specific.

[NOTE: In this post I’m using the ever-ambiguous word ‘love’ to simply mean the object of one’s affection. I recognize the importance of differentiating between types, but all you Bible scholars will just have to bite the bullet on this one because I’m intentionally keeping it vague. Classifying the different loves is not the point of this post.]

Put statements (a) and (b) together and you’ve got a pretty obvious tension;  So how do we understand these differences? Is one better or more important? Should they overlap? Should we pursue both kinds of love, or is that even possible?

I’m glad you asked! Though…I don’t really know…

But, as a Christ-follower, I believe God is able to love particularly and universally. By faith we have the freedom to believe in the illogical, and this is one such thing. Obviously I’m not talking about Thai food anymore (though I bet God digs that stuff too) but about His capacity for loving people. For the sake of clarity allow me to restate (a) and (b):

(a) God loves everyone equally. He doesn’t love certain people more or less, and there really isn’t anything about you to make Him love you. He just does.

(b) God loves you personally – unlike anyone else. His affection for you is intimately personal and His love for you is unique.

So be encouraged; God’s love for you is unique! Though, I suppose His love for you isn’t all that different from His love for others…(hahaha)…

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“Devils” Quote

Posted in Good Quotes, Stuff I'm Reading, Theological by matt on Saturday, July 26, 2008

From a book I recently finished…

My immortality is necessary if only because God will not want to commit an injustice and smother once and for all the flame of love for Him that’s been kindled in my heart. And what’s more precious than love? Love is higher than being, love is the crown of being; how is it possible that being should not be subbordinate to love? If I’ve come to love Him and rejoice in my love – is it possible He would extinguish me and my joy and turn us both into nothing. If there is a God, then I am immortal! There’s my profession of faith.

Stepan Trofimovich in Dostoevsky’s novel, Devils

Summed Up in Simplicity

Posted in Day-To-Day, Friends by matt on Tuesday, June 17, 2008

During my stint in Waco I developed the habit of summarizing what I was experiencing or learning into one or two succinct words.

Toward the beginning of college my words were love and relationship. The Penland fellas and I had tons of conversations about all this (*sigh*…the good old days). As unlikely as this may seem, I was actually even more naive back then, but those were the sum-up words.

The focus eventually shifted to the word pursuit. Building on the love thing, I quickly began to see the pointlessness of talking when unaccompanied by a pursuit of relationships our of love. It’s that old school dc Talk song, “luv is a verb” (they were so gangsta…). I have Goose to thank for most of this as I observed his life, learned it from him, and processed it with him on an almost weekly basis.

So that’s a brief history of me over simplifying my own life. And, after only three weeks, I’ve already found a new word for post-college life: simplicity.

Using complexity to convey my simple life would be retarded (not to mention hypocritical) so I’ll try to be direct about it. I moved from a city of 100,000 to a city of 15,000,000, yet this move has made life much simpler. I work about 45 hours a week. My free time is spent reading (I’m almost out of books…), hanging out with the few people I know, and exploring my surroundings.

And that’s it.

Every now and then things get a little crazy and I try eating at a different restaurant or something, but things tend to stay about the same here. The best thing about this newfound simplicity is the closeness I feel with God. Here He’s so discernible. In Waco it was all the grades and people that distracted me; the obscenely long to-do lists and Baylor’s annoying religious bubble made it much more challenging to keep perspective.

I know, I know it’s the person that becomes distracted. I know it’s lame to blame the place. I’ve been given a fresh start. Following Jesus can stay basic if I’ll let it, and I’m hoping this simplicity sticks.

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