No, Love Isn't Blind
Sunday, November 11, 2001
Location - Bath
Attribute - Love
Bible Verses -
NO, LOVE ISN'T BLIND
Genesis 2:18-25 Hymns: 326
Responsive Reading #14. pp. 142f. **3
Secrets of Heaven 9206
For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.
We are back to the series of efforts to put our theology into brief and simple statements. The first four sermons in the series dealt with the Lord: "There is no wrath of God," "The Lord is good to all," "The Lord our God is one," and "We worship the risen Lord." It might be well to underline the point that these are not just matters of intellectual interest. Einstein once said that the most important question of all is "Is the universe a friendly place or not?" These are matters that touch our hearts as well as our minds. They affect how we perceive ourselves and each other, and therefore how we treat ourselves and each other.
This morning's simple statement is "No, love isn't blind." It starts in the negative because it seems that not many people really believe it, and it may well be that not many people believe it because it is hard to believe. Strong feelings have powerful effects on our perceptions, and I suspect that all of us have been blinded by our feelings at one time or another. This interplay between feeling and thought is happening all the time, and the better we understand it, the more likely it is that the interplay can be constructive.
There is not a great deal in the literal sense of Scripture to help us, but Scripture seen through the lens of doctrine is a rich resource indeed. To put it in traditional terms, we are talking about the marriage of good and truth, and the subject is introduced in the second chapter of Genesis, with our text: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh."
Marriage remains important throughout the biblical narrative. Sarah plays a major role in many of the stories of Abraham, and the issue of finding wives for both Isaac and Jacob is central. The prohibitions of intermarriage with the Canaanites are strong in the narratives of the settlement. We have the stories of David and Bathsheba, of Solomon and his many wives, of Ahab and Jezebel. In the prophets, Israel is several times portrayed as the faithless wife, with the Lord as the husband who would call her back to fidelity. Then in the Gospels we have a number of parables in which the marriage feast is clearly an image of heaven; and finally we have the holy city, the new Jerusalem, as the bride adorned for her husband.
It is no real surprise, then, to find that marriage is a recurrent theme in the theology of our church. My search program turned up 1685 references to the word "marriage" in the published works, with almost half of them being in Secrets of Heaven, where the subject is the deeper meaning of Genesis and Exodus. In one sense, the centerpiece of this attention is of course the single work, Marriage Love, but the roots of the matter are far deeper than the external institution of marriage. We are reminded time and again that the basis of the intended holiness of marriage is in the marriage of love and wisdom in the Lord. This principle occupies a prominent place in the first published overview of the theology, The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine.
In God's pattern, what is good and what is true are united and not separated, so that they are one thing and not two things. They emanate united from Deity and they are united in heaven, so they should be united in the church. In heaven, the union of what is good and what is true is called the heavenly marriage, because all the people there live in this marriage. That is why heaven is compared to a marriage in the Word and why the Lord is called the Bridegroom and Husband, while heaven and the church are called the bride and wife. The reason these names are given to heaven and the church is that the people in heaven and the church are accepting what is divine and good in their truths. (§13)
It is no accident that the work on marriage love does not begin with an examination of our earthly marriages. There are five full chapters before that subject is approached, chapters on marriages in heaven, on the state of married partners after death, on the nature of marriage love, on the origin of that love in the marriage of what is good and what is true, and on the marriage of the Lord and the church. We are being told that if we want to understand what can make our marriages work, we need to have some idea of where they come from.
It is easy, for example, to see a rising divorce rate as a sign that the world is getting worse. If we read about what happens after death, though, we find that it may not be that simple. After death, married couples "put off the externals and come into the internals, and sense the quality of the love they have had for each other; so they sense whether they can live together or not" (Marriage Love 48b). If they cannot, then they separate. It may be that some earthly divorces-certainly not all of them-are be instances of "externals being put off." We have to look deeper.
When we do look deeper, we find that the underlying issue is the marriage of the good and the true, the marriage of love and wisdom. The issue is "whether they can live together or not." This involves both heart and mind. To the extent that the basic motivation is self-serving, there will be no effort to see the point of view of the partner. There will in fact be a constant effort to minimize the importance of the other's feelings and thoughts. The cry is "My spouse doesn't understand me," but the fact is that there is no real desire to be understood or to understand.
Self-love is blind, and deliberately so. It does not want to see others as they are, but to impose its own interpretation on them. Self-love is constantly saying, "I am the most important person in the world"; so it cannot entertain any suggestion that someone else really matters. Only as we escape the grasp of self-love do we begin to be able to see that other people are as real as we.
Fortunately, we have our better days as well as our worse ones. There are times when we are all wrapped up in ourselves, and at such times the best we can do is, so to speak, just follow the rules and not let our mood take control of our words and our deeds. Under the Lord's providence, though, our state will change sooner or later. We will warm toward others; and even if we warm only slightly, that is all that is needed. We catch a glimpse of the better way to be and to live. There is a hint of a better self lying dormant within. Our ego, we are told, cannot believe that there is any real life except its own (Secrets of Heaven 141), when the fact is that only as our sense of self-importance dies do we really begin to live.
This is the message of that extraordinarily penetrating definition of love in Divine Love and Wisdom (§47): "Love is feeling the joy of another as joy in oneself." After all, joy is joy, so to feel it as joy is to perceive it truly. It is to know the reality of another human being. It is to experience one little bit the world as it is. Love opens our eyes as nothing else can do. It moves outside the defensive walls we construct to hide our fears and our failings; and our defensive walls hide others from us far more effectively than they hide us from others.
Before concluding, though, it might be well to call attention to another dimension of the situation. Because our loves are not pure, it helps at times to look at things as objectively as we can. Our theology compares this to the cold light of winter; and while it is true that nothing grows in the winter time, it is true also that when the leaves fall, we see a great deal that has been hidden before. In similar fashion, when we are faced with a difficulty that stirs our feelings, it can help to step back from it, or sometimes to talk to someone we trust who is not so emotionally involved. This will not show us "the whole truth," but it may well enable us to see some aspects of the situation that have been hidden by our own preoccupations.
This kind of detachment is particularly valued and practiced in the worlds of science in particular and of scholarship in general, and it has led to discoveries that have transformed the material circumstances of our lives. Neither scholarship nor science, though, has brought us peace of mind. That cannot be attained by detachment, only by involvement. The mind may design wonderfully effective tools, but it is the heart that puts them to use.
The marriage of love and wisdom, like the marriage of a woman and a man, is not a single event but a lifelong process. It involves times of closeness and separation, of conflict and concord. We are told that in the biblical narrative of the Israelite monarchy, the kingdom of Judah pictures the kingdom of the heart and the kingdom of Israel the kingdom of the mind; and the relationship between them was stormy at times. Even though they worshiped the same God, they could not live in harmony consistently. Their differences, their private agendas, often had them at each other's throats.
So our own minds and our own hearts are often at odds, with the heart rebelling against the discipline of truth and the mind rebelling against the heart's demand for tenderness. The Lord's intent is that we come to know tender truth and clear-sighted love, truth that has some stretch and some give to it (Secrets of Heaven 7298:2), love that does not shy away from uncomfortable facts. That, after all, is what heaven is really all about.
Secrets of Heaven 9206:2
It is like this. People who are engaged in something worthwhile but are not interested in truth are not really engaged in anything worthwhile. This is because anything good becomes good by means of truths, since what is good gets its quality from truths. The good united to the true is what we mean by "spiritual good"; so when truth dies for us, so does the good, and vice versa, when the good dies for us, so does truth, because the union has been torn apart and scattered.
As a result, we can recognize the good from the fact that it longs for truth and is moved by truth for the sake of doing something that helps-that is, for the sake of life. That very longing, that very affection for truth for the sake of life, is in its own right an impulse toward union. It is like the way food or bread wants water or wine for the sake of union because together they nourish us. Or it is like light and warmth: light united to warmth makes everything on earth sprout and grow, but when the union is broken, that is the death of what has sprouted and grown.