Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Weapon of Most Destruction

It is common in our day to fear the proliferation of "weapons of mass destruction" throughout the world. What if some unsavory type gets a hold of some radioactive waste, or strand of virus, or chemical compound that can be used to terrorize masses of people? I suppose bad things will happen. But then again, we're promised bad things will happen. I don't suppose some terrorist or government is going to prove Christ a liar by refraining from evil. No, I have a feeling people are going to grow more and more evil over time. When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)? So while I expect the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, I want to look at the weapon of most destruction.

I wrote a chapter in The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another on love. I interacted with, and disagreed with, some common ideas about love. I wrote that I believe love is easier to describe than define. I described love as a "progression of phases." I argued that all love begins as an affection flowing from a sense of beauty or value. In other words, we only love what we find valuable. We only find valuable what we have a sense of. I then proposed that love may progress from an affection to a desire. Love progresses from affection to desire when value is high enough and the object of affection can be made available. Then I argued that love may progress from a desire to an inclination of focus. An inclination of focus is the bridge between desire and action. It's where priorities are assessed, and objections to the desire are dealt with. Finally, love may overflow in action toward or on behalf of the beloved object. I think all love falls somewhere along the progression of these four phases.

I want to zoom in on inclination of focus. Inclination of focus is the most dangerous weapon on the face of the earth. Forget what you've read about warheads and dirty bombs. Consider with me the example of King David's son, Amnon, in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon, prince of Israel, loved his sister, Tamar. I don't mean he loved her in the normal sibling kind of way. No, he loved her in the "I think you're hot, I'd love to hook up" gross kind of way. He loved her so greatly that he made himself physically ill fantasizing about her. Lest you think his love was just lust, the biblical writer disagrees.

"After a time Amnon, David's son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her" (2 Sam. 13:2) So Amnon was lovesick for his sister. How did Amnon's love progress? It progressed in violating his sister. With the help of a demented cousin, Amnon schemed his way into being alone with his sister in his bedroom. Moment of truth. What happened?

"'Come, lie with me, my sister.' She answered him, 'No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you'" (2 Sam. 13:11-13).

Tamar, the reasonable sister, tried to reason with Amnon. She gave him multiple reasons to turn back from his intended path. Pagans might violate others, but not Jews. Not God's chosen people. Surely Amnon wouldn't want to plague Tamar with shame if he loved her. Amnon could be king one day. Surely he wouldn't want to throw away his reputation. Surely vengeance would be called for. Surely King David would let them get married. Surely Tamar would rather give herself to Amnon as a wife than be violated as a sister. Surely... Surely... Surely... Surely...

"But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her" (2 Sam. 13:14-15).

When I say love may progress to an inclination of focus, I have in mind something like Amnon's absolute refusal to listen to Tamar's logic. He could not be reasoned with. He made the most stupid, fatal decision imaginable, even when given alternatives. This is stronger than desire. It's tunnel vision that refuses to see any other option than having the object of affection. It will sacrifice everything, even life itself, in the pursuit of that object. For Amnon, Tamar was that object. And his little episode with Tamar cost Amnon his life.

Now I've wondered why this is so. Why do people do such stupid things? Why do people sacrifice themselves and others on the altars of pleasures or treasures or comfort? Sin doesn't make sense. Yet even Christians commit the dumbest sins, even when they know they won't get away with it - even when they know they'll get caught. Why? Why? Why? Where does such foolishness come from?

G-O-D. It comes from God. The most dangerous weapon on the face of the earth, the weapon of most destruction flows as a gift from God. How can this be? It's simple, really. The ability to zoom in on an object of affection, the ability to go to extraordinary measures to obtain that object, the commitment to cast off any other option, the stubbornness to refuse arguments of human logic and reason, the capacity to persevere in pursuit of that goal in the face of overwhelming odds, the irrepressible conviction that the beloved object will be had are all gifts of God. Gifts of love.

You see, this is exactly the kind of love that exists between the Father and Son and Spirit. This is precisely the kind of love that Jesus displayed when he set his face like a flint toward Calvary. This is the love that wiped the blood from Christ's brow in Gethsemane. This is the love that stayed on the cross when tendons tore and blood poured. This is the love that does whatever it takes for the joy set before it. This is the love that lays its life down for its friends. This is the love of Christ. The dangerous, fearsome capacity to do radical things, in the face of insurmountable odds, without fear of consequence is exactly the love that God expects from his children.

Man distorts it. Man uses this precious gift - the ability to not give a rip - to fulfill all his earthly desires. He talks himself into the most selfish loves that use and consume himself and others. He turns the gift that is to be used as an instrument of inexpressible love into the world's deadliest weapon. Sin is love off its rocker.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).

Be careful where you point that thing! It's loaded with no safety!

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