Excerpt from Practicing the Presence of People
Why does it seem so hard to love? Why does the real thing so often elude us? Why don’t we just claim this treasure and enjoy it?
One reason is that we do not really believe love is permitted. A little taste of love here and there––yes, that’s fine. But to make love the central purpose of our lives, to build everything else around it to the point of filling entire days, hour after hour, with nothing but love––why, such a life would be unthinkably idealistic. It would be just plain silly.
Don’t we have other business to attend to, other matters more pressing? What does love have to do with finances, with meeting deadlines, with going to the dentist or to the unemployment office? The world is not about love, for heaven’s sake! Love has its place, but it mustn’t be allowed to run our lives. If we must have love, then let it be a little fling here and there, or else something pragmatic, hard-working, goal-oriented.
But what if fulfilling Jesus’ two Great Commandments––to love God and to love people––might actually be fun, relaxing, renewing, exhilarating? And what if we could enjoy love not only now and then but as a way of life? What if we uncorked the bottle and let love loose in our lives? If love pure and simple were ever permitted to rule the world––why, think what would happen!
This is the whole problem. Love, if allowed free rein, would overthrow the world system as we know it. Nothing could stand in its way. Everything would topple like a house of cards: stock markets, governments, crime, shopping malls, banks, careers, on and on.
Isn’t this what we’re all afraid of? Aren’t we terrified of our little world caving in around us? But the destruction of the world by love is the goal of the gospel. The gospel is a license to love. It is a unilateral declaration that from now on there is only one law: the law of love. All other laws, all other organizing principles, all other systems of morality have been superceded. There is no longer any need to live for anything but pure love. The gospel is the granting of full permission to devote ourselves unashamedly to this foolishness. No longer is there the slightest justification for pursuing any other goal.
My friend Mike Tronson went through a long period of unemployment. During this time he was plagued by insecurity, doubts, questions. What was he to do with all the time on his hands? Without working, how was he to justify his existence?
One Sunday his pastor happened to say, “When you’re praying, do you ever just pause and ask God to speak to you?”
A few days later Mike was outside in his garden, praying. Once again his thoughts were taken up with the difficulties of unemployment. But suddenly recalling his pastor’s comment, Mike paused and asked God to speak to him. Immediately the Lord said, “This is a time to focus on your wife and children. Learn to love them more deeply. Work is of very little importance to Me. What’s important to Me is people.”
This thought washed over Mike with a great wave of freshness and relief. God had given him a job! Instead of feeling anxious about not having work, now he was free to focus on the most important work of all. He had just been given permission to love.