To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
The last section of CS Lewis’s The Four Loves brings in a form of love that goes beyond the natural loves of Affection, Friendship, and Eros. The difference of life with three of the four loves but no agape and life with all four loves is the difference between a garden and a wilderness, according to Lewis. He also emphasizes that the three previous loves are not rivals to God’s love (Agape) in and of themselves. The way that the rivalry was created was when we put the three loves ahead of Agape, an idolization of them if you will.
Think of it this way: it’s harder to find works in media that portray selfless love. Eros is easy to find, due to our hypersexualized culture. Agape is stuff saved for Oscar movies or movies that want to get Oscars. It’s harder to find in the everyday life, partially because of how selfish and skeptical the culture is. We often scoff at the “Christ” metaphors in superhero movies such as Man of Steel, we often question a celebrity’s altruistic motives, and while we all love A Christmas Carol, our minds cling to the image of the miserly version of Scrooge rather than the changed man he became in the end.
But does being selfish and skeptical really benefit society and ourselves in the long run? To make a long answer short: NO!
No matter how hard we try to pride ourselves as an intellectual society, the fact of the matter is that we are a culture that follows our passions. Human beings can’t cut themselves off from emotion unless they want to be labeled as a “sociopath.” There’s no such thing as being “incapable of loving” because even the worst of humanity has something or someone that they love.
This is also the most theologically centered chapter of the book because Agape ties into so much of what God means to Christianity. In the eyes of Christianity, God IS Love. He created humanity to love him, but the love He wants isn’t a forced love. God NEVER forces any person to love Him if they don’t desire it because real love comes from free will. Christians don’t do good things because they think they’ll go to Heaven. They do good things because God’s love inspires them to love others in return.
So often, people think that Christianity is hateful when in reality, Christianity is so selfless that they want to protect people from hurting themselves. In the end, everyone has a choice to make, but Christians want to encourage people to make good choices. Christians don’t get anything out of trying to stop somebody from hurting themselves, if their motives are for all the right reasons. Real Christians don’t actively try to condemn others, but they admonish others.
Admonish means to caution someone, to remind a person of his or her obligations to something. Think of a child who is still learning the ways of the world. If a child was going to climb a tree, you would caution that child to be careful. If a child was procrastinating on an important project, you would remind that child of his or her duty as a student.
This all falls under the category of selfless love because the person who is admonished may hate the person doing the admonishing; he may not listen or he may condemn the other person. But the person doing the admonishing will still love the person being admonished anyway.
The best example of Agape in a person is Mother Teresa. She serviced the poor, but she never discriminated against a person’s religion. However, she did admonish wealthy countries and spoke out against abortion. Some people have hated Mother Teresa for what she stood for, but she continued to do her work anyway.
I’ll end this entry with a quote attributed to Mother Teresa and leave you to think about how our society would be if we were all a little more like her…
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.