A friend’s comment about my earlier post on accountability reminded me of a statement made by C.S. Lewis in his famous and fabulous speeches titled, The Four Loves. In discussing Agape, God’s love, referred to in this statement also as charity, Lewis says:
There is that in the heart of every man which resists and resents agape from his fellow creatures or even from his creator. We naturally want to be desired, to be found delightful, to satisfy worthily some hunger in others. To receive a love that is purely a gift, that bears witness solely to the lovingness of the giver, and not at all to our loveliness, is a severe mortification. We desperately need to receive such love, from God and even from our fellow creatures, but we don’t naturally want to.
That reality, of course, is due to the fall – that pride we inherited that wants to “be like God“. This is also why many have a hard time receiving the free gift of God in Christ preferring, instead, a plethora of philosophies, ideas and religions that let them work up to God, building their own tower of Babel, with the same tragic results.
However, where accountability is concerned, we are not under any obligation to receive false charity. Lewis continues:
“I don’t want any of your darned Christian charity” is a very familiar sentence. Of course, it often springs from an ignorance of what Christian charity is – more often from a well grounded suspicion that Christian charity is not what we’re really being offered – because, of course, much of what is called charity contains so much vanity, self-applause, and veiled contempt that it cannot help but be resented.
Our Lord told us that he was sending us “out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves“. He also told us not to give “that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Trust your heart and seek counsel from those who love you as Christ does, not from those who care about moral platitudes and serving as modern day Pharisees. Psalm 103:13-14 says “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” So, don’t give yourself to those who can’t remember that you, and they themselves, are made of dust. Love those people, but seek counsel from brothers and sisters who love you and God and can encourage you with gentleness and compassion.
Lewis summarized this section:
It is hard to bear agape from our fellows, and yet, each of us needs it. There is that in each of us that simply can’t be loved with natural love.
The question for us is whether we will recognize “angels unaware” and “today, if we hear his voice, avoid hardening our hearts.” Practice agape accountability with your brothers and sisters and let them practice it with you. As St. Paul told the Ephesians: “And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”
It’s a peculiar thing, Perfect Love. It requires that I die a little more to myself and make the hard choice to be humble before I can receive it – especially from human vessels – and live in the blessedness of it.
This isn’t how we naturally think of love. We all long deeply to be truly loved and rejoice in the death (and resurrection) that restored us to God’s love, but give little or no consideration to the lifelong process of dying to self that love requires. To live in awareness of this death – and especially to seek it – defines spiritual maturation.