A long time ago , I had reason to examine the doctrine of love. As is typically the case, there is a wide gulf between our perceptions of being and feeling loved and the reality of love that exists in our lives. But it is more than the wide gulf that ought to interest us, and that is the way that our reflections of wuv often deal with the human problems of projection. When we look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we all want to be loved like the way that Paul defines love: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We all want other people to treat us like this, to suffer long with us, to be kind, to bear all things and believe all things and hope all thing sand endure all things and the like, and to think no evil of us. But 1 Corinthians is not so much about telling others how to treat us, but telling us how to treat others.
This can be a problem. About ten years ago or so, a group of people complained about a doctrinal difference regarding the Doctrine of love. It is unclear what is meant by this, especially since the accusation was made by people who certainly lacked skill in practicing love towards others themselves. As is often the case, the ones who complain the most loudly about others behaving in an unloving fashion are themselves often particularly unloving. Knowing human beings to be the sorts of creatures who love where it is easy to love, we can gather that those who are easy to love will in fact be loved to a great extent. And generally that is what we find. When we find that we are not loved as we might wish or hope for, the proper assumption to make is that either we are not as easy to love as we may believe ourselves to be, or that we are not as good at recognizing the love of others as we might think of ourselves. And this is true on a larger level as well. When a group of people feels themselves to be unloved, rather than lashing out at others, it is quite proper to ponder whether the failures in their perception of being loved results from their not being partiuclarly loveable or from their not being perceptive about the love that others do in fact feel for them, or some combination of the two.
It is very easy for us to lack perception about the love that others have for us. This is true for a variety of reasons. Quite often, we do not recognize the behavior of others as love. When people hope all things and believe all things and endure all things and suffer long and are kind, we may not recognize others as doing these things. We can be greatly ignorant of what others have to put up with to be kind to us. And if we do not recognize the effort that others are putting towards us, we may not see in the behavior of others love at all, and thus we will fail to recognize others as being loving to the extent that they are. Similarly, there are whole classes of behavior that the Bible considers to be loving that we do not feel to be loving–Leviticus 19:17-18, for example, give us the following discussion of loving our neighbor as ourselves: “‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” We often consider rebuke and tough love to be ways of showing love to others, but by and large we do not feel the rebuke and tough love of others to be loving towards us, one of the many asymmetries that exist and that cause trouble within the human experience.
This is what allows us to see that complaints about the doctrine of wuv often involve the common human problem of projection. Do we love others in the ways that we expect and demand others love us? To the extent that we view others as being defective in an understanding of love, we accuse ourselves of being defective in the same thing. After all, to claim that others are somehow doctrinally defective is an aspect of rebuking and chastening others, and a claim that behaving in such a fashion is not in fact an open admission of being unloving ourselves. By rebuking others, we legitimize the rebuke that they give to us, and if we refuse to accept others as having a legitimate place to rebuke us, then we cut off the legitimacy of our rebuke of others, thus demonstrating ourselves to be lacking in proper love. We are presented with the choice of either accepting the potential legitimacy of rebuke from others that we hate so that we have the grounds to rebuke and correct others, or in denying ourselves the right to rebuke or censure others because we are unwilling to accept rebuke from others. If we fail to rebuke others, we may bear sin because of them, and if we fail to bear the rebuke of others well, we fail to meet the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Whatever the case, though, when we complain that we are not being loved, we are pointing the fingers at ourselves at being unable to love others or to recognize what is in fact proper and biblical love. Seen in this light, it is better not to complain at all.
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