Love is an essential part of life, but it is not without danger, in fact our cherished loves themselves may transform into dangerous loves. What about our love of art, film, dance, or theater? Is that love pure? What about love for our family, or our community?
Our culture praises the self and baptizes everything the self desires as an inherent good. Our culture refuses to recognize our own loves can lead us to crash our life upon the rocks, like sailors following their natural desire to hear the songs of the Sirens. If you and I are going to be salt and light in the culture where we live, we must seek a deeper understanding of our own hearts and the loves we embrace.
God is Love
If God is love, we might be tempted to think that all our loves are good and true. But while God’s love is pure, our love is not pure. Our love is often tainted by our sin, our pride and the fallen world around us. Only God can love others perfectly in every circumstance. Unlike men and women, God doesn’t coddle us out of a love that refuses to discipline us. God doesn’t enable us by overlooking our selfishness. Even when we need tough love, God gives us what we need without being overbearing. His love is perfect. His love is extravagant. We know this because God’s love is demonstrated in the love of Christ, and the adoption of you and I into God’s family.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NIV)
God’s love never excuses sin or justifies disobedience in the name of love. This is because of His nature. His love cannot conflict with His character, which is always just, always good, and always true.
Love, Passion, and Creativity
Artists and creatives are passionate about what they create, and love being creative. It is what drives them to keep pushing boundaries and finding new ways to express ideas. We cannot live without such love, passion, and desire. Love is the very foundation of relationships, fellowship, and the enjoyment of life. Without love we would have no intimacy, no family and no reason for art or theater.
And yet, our hearts can corrupt healthy loves. For instance, if we become too enamored with our own artistic communities, then our love becomes corrupted by pride, and elitist attitudes. Our love for the Avant-Garde may lead us to despise the traditionalist. Or our love for the old artistic masters may tempt us to despise modern artists. We may praise cinema, and despise popular movies that fail to meet our criteria of great cinema. Our hearts can find a million ways to justify our own loves which result in disdaining the loves of others. The problem is not our passion. But we must take time to discern our underlying motivations.
For the Sake of Love
When we love something, we experience a kind of euphoria. We experience it as lovely and beautiful, and we assume our love for this item is also lovely and beautiful. There is a sort of fittingness between our affection for something and the worthiness of that object to receive that affection.
This is what is at the heart of worship. We adore and praise God because our very soul recognizes that He is worthy of our praise. In a smaller way, we respond to a grand sculpture by taking the time to recognize that such a work of art is worthy of our attention and recognition. We admire the craftsmanship and emotive content.
But if we are honest, we know that our own hearts can be filled with ulterior motives. We all possess levels of selfish desires, envy, jealousy, and pride. We may not see those desires growing within us because they rarely transpire overnight. It happens little by little. Slowly our affection and love for something can transform from adoration to a desire to possess it. Like a woman who sees a beautiful necklace in a store window. Each day she admires it as she walks to work. If she is not careful her heart may grow with an over-desire to possess it. This would lead to jealousy or envy when someone else buys it, or may tempt her to steal it. But notice the natural desire was transformed by the nature of her human heart. This is how all of our hearts work.
In the beginning, the love we had for a friend, or a community can feel pure, true, and beautiful. In such a moment we sense something nearly divine about our love for others and the enjoyment of being loved by others. In response, we write songs about doing things “for the sake of love.” We feel like we are ‘found’ and are ‘at home’. We experience it as so right and true that we are willing to sacrifice for this relationship. Our culture talks as if anything done in the name of such love is a good thing. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves, this view in our culture about doing things for the sake of love, “Insinuates that any action which is sincerely done ‘for love’s sake’ is thereby lawful and even meritorious.” It is as if the fact that we do it “for love” sanctifies our actions. This is a dangerous notion that ignores the sinful nature of our hearts.
Peter’s “Love” for Jesus
Peter loved Jesus. He was so filled with love for Jesus he vowed his allegiance for Jesus. He impulsively promised he would never leave Jesus. He knew that Jesus was God. He had seen the miracles. He had spent time by the campfire at night getting to know him. Peter is no different than you and I. He began with a love born of meeting Jesus face to face, and experiencing true grace and forgiveness. This is why he left his previous life to follow Jesus.
And yet, overtime the disciples started to focus on their own role in the kingdom. They started asking who will sit at the right hand of Jesus when He gets to heaven. This idea was tantamount to asking Jesus which disciple was His favorite. Which means their hearts were filled not only with love for Jesus but also pride in their own relationship with Jesus and a competitive spirit with other disciples.
In such a context, there came a desire to ‘prove’ their love for Christ, or to earn more favor than the other disciples. We don’t know for sure, but maybe this was the shift in motivation that drove Peter to ‘protect’ Jesus. That fateful night in the garden, the disciples’ dreams of earthly victory seemed to go up in smoke. Though Jesus had been trying to tell them that He must suffer, Peter would have none of it. As the Gospel of John states,
“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
– John 18:10 (ESV)
Peter’s love of Jesus drove him to take up a sword. Not against a Roman Soldier, but against the High Priest’s servant. Peter loved Jesus, but his love of being associated with Jesus led him to believe they would rule with this “King of the Jews” without suffering. He was ‘protecting’ Jesus, but also defending his own dream of what life with Jesus would always be.
If you are like me, we rarely pause when we read this passage to consider how our own ‘loves’ can easily drive us to the wrong thing, motivated by the wrong desires. Peter reminds us that our loves are not as pure as God’s love. Somehow our own pride creeps in and corrupts other loves.
Dangerous Love Explained
We may think we are immune, but this happens in almost every arena, and to all men and women. Unconditional love for anything other than God, leads to self-righteous pride. Such pride eventually gives birth to disgust towards others because they threaten our loves, or they do not share our loves.
This is at the heart of elitist artists, filmmakers, and producers as well as anti-elitist creatives. Each one takes pride in their position and perspective to such a degree that they look down upon the “other.” This is also at the heart of racism and sexism. We love our own community so much we begin to look down on others. Some people think hatred is taught, but so often that hatred is not taught. It is a byproduct of a love which is unbridled and unquestioned. Thus, we must question our own hearts and our motives. Sin often finds a way to creep in and corrupt even our most holy desires (Romans 7). Consider how Lewis describes this dynamic,
“We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred.”
– C.S. Lewis. The Four Loves
Dangerous Loves Examined
If we allow our hearts to follow the winds of the culture, we will get swept up in politically correct ideologies or politically incorrect ideologies. But neither set of ideologies are trustworthy. Our hearts cannot follow the social cause du jour. We must base our principles and our commitments upon the word of God alone. When the world promotes tolerance, we know that we have a higher calling – to love our neighbors as well as our enemies. Surface solutions are insufficient.
We must examine what we love, what we fear, and where we find our joy and hope. Then we can see how much our soul is becoming more like Christ (or less).
This impacts your art because, out of the overflow of the heart, your art will speak.
We don’t often talk this way, but your art is influenced by your spiritual life. In fact, the broader culture tries to tell us to keep our spiritual beliefs out of our art. But we cannot quarantine our hearts from our art and remain honest and authentic. Nor should we try.
Log & Speck
As always, we must start with our own hearts. It is easy to see the sin in others, but we must seek to remove the log in our own eye before we ever attempt removing the speck from our brother’s eye. (Matt 7:3-5) If we are not aware of the weakness in our own hearts, or the tempting voice of the enemy, we will allow these loves to become inordinate, dangerous loves in our own life and in our art.
As loving citizens we must also consider how these dangerous loves are infecting our culture, our city or our community. After all, how can we speak powerfully to a community we have not taken time to understand? Only when we have understood the cancers within our own community, can we begin to offer healing and hope that comes from the Gospel. Just as Paul was “all things to all people,” we must seek to love people in unique ways that show God’s love to them. (1 Cor 19:22)
Personal Questions to Consider and to Help you Focus:
1. If God told you to leave all your awards, and walk away from those elite circles tonight, what would make you hesitate? (consider the rich young ruler to whom Jesus said, “Sell all you have and follow me.”)
2. If God asked you to go love the one group of people you feel superior to right now, what would you say? (Consider what we can learn from the book of Jonah, or the parable of the Good Samaritan)
Though all of us struggle with mixed motivations and sinful hearts, the good news is that God is not mad at you. He loves His children. Jesus has already paid the price for our pride, our sins and even the way we justify our sins in “the name of love.” At the same time God is calling you and me to return to our first love – To love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This is how we re–calibrate our hearts. When our hearts are focused upon God, somehow God realigns and re-calibrates the desires within us. This is the only cure, because in His presence was where we were designed to find hope, joy and peace.
I hope this has helped you understand your own heart, and how much greater God’s love is. I would love to hear from you in the comments down below how this resonated with you or clarified your artistic and spiritual walk today.
Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.