For Love’s Sake

“St John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be restated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

“I suppose that everyone who has thought about the matter will see what M. de Rougemont meant. Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself. It tell us not to count the costs, it demands of us a total commitment. it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious. …

“Now it must be noticed that the natural loves make this blasphemous claim not when they are in their worst, but when they are in their best, natural condition… And this is of course what we ought to expect. Our loves do not make their claim to divinity until the claim becomes plausible. It does not become plausible until there is in them a real resemblance to God, to Love Himself. Let us here make no mistake. Our loves are really God-like; and among our loves those are most God-like which are most boundless and unwearied in giving. All the things the poets say about them are true. Their joy, their energy, their patience, their readiness to forgive, their desire for the good of the beloved – all this is a real and all but adorable image of the Divine life. …

“That is why we may mistake Like for Same. We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods; then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods to not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred.”

CS Lewis, The Four Loves, Introduction, pp 17-20

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