During the week just past Scott Rasmussen, in a post intriguingly entitled, “The Culture Is Powerful Enough to Fix Our Broken Political System” wrote of listening to Arthur Brooks lecture on what will fix our politics:
Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, shocked many in the room by saying that civility and tolerance are not the antidote to political polarization. What, he wondered, would we think of his marriage if he and his wife were civil and tolerated each other?
The answer, according to Brooks, is that for our political system to work effectively, we need to love those who disagree with us. If we are attacked on social media, for example, Brooks said we should not fight back. Instead, we should offer a warm-hearted response. He encouraged everyone in attendance to seek out those who disagree with them and find a way to respond with love. Thank your opponents for taking the time to comment on your work. Thank them for their opinion. Show them you really care.
Which sent me to reevaluate a piece I wrote earlier this week about the fact that “love corrects.” I still stand by that, because in the scriptures I quoted there are adverbs and adjectives that call for “gentleness.” There is style, there is substance and there is making sure your style and substance match each other and reality. In other words, acting nice, while being spiteful just is not going to cover it.
This is why Brooks contrasts civility and tolerance with love. In the modern era, civility and tolerance are cover for spite and worse, not antidotes. But they are not contrasted to love, they are part of it – but only part. Brooks wants to make sure we partake of the whole enchilada. All of which has me thinking a lot about the nature of love.
Like most things, when people think about love we want to simplify it. We confuse it with sex; we confuse it with civility; we think it is a feeling; we reduce it to an action. In Christian circles it has become trite to talk about all the different words for it that exist in the ancient Greek language. Even the much vaunted “love chapter” – I Corinthians 13 – in all its pithy and poetic prose is not a complete picture of love.
Love is not purely transactional, that is to say something that shows up as people interact with each other. Genuine love is also transformative. We change as be both give and receive it – it changes us and it changes those to whom we offer it.
Because love is both complex and transformative, we cannot in the end completely understand it – we must experience it. Which is why God found it necessary to personify it. After all, God is love, and God became flesh and lived among us. Jesus Christ – God Incarnate, love personified – corrected and tolerated, was both civil and name-calling when debating, was both violent and sacrificial. But He knew perfectly when to be what and precisely how.
The only way we can come close to that is to live intimately with Him. This Sunday morning, let’s rededicate ourselves to that task.