Do you know what makes stuff like pornography, lust, fantasy, and one night stands so enticing? It’s not necessarily the sexual gratification (though that is for sure part of it). It is that, on the outset, these things are easy. Easier, at least, than love. Love, relationships, real intimacy is hard.
Living with people is hard. Sometimes loving them is even harder. It makes sense that we would search for a big “EASY” button that will save us the drama and the hassle.
Give me bodies on a screen that I can change at will. Give me Mr. Perfect in my mind so I can win every fight. Give me Ms. Right in my dreams because a woman is the only being that could ever understand me. Leave me alone and, as one song puts it, I will “put my body first… and love myself.”
It seems the current attitude is, “Why love when you can just have sex?”
The unfortunate reality in all of this though is that love is, really, hardwired into us. We see the consequences of love lost in the lives of those with attachment disorders. We see the consequences of love lost when a predator traffics a child. We see the consequences of love lost when people are abused, women are raped, sports players are molested. We see the what happens when love and sex are made synonymous (they are not the same).
We know what happens when we reduce whole people to nothing more than bodies to be used for our own pleasure.
What fixes that? Well, you could try legislating, but laws do not stop criminals, hence the reason they are criminals. Laws do not put love, compassion, and empathy back into someone’s heart. Laws exist for the purpose of justice and order.
Laws cannot make me change, forgive, or heal. Only love does that.
But love is hard.
Did you realize that love comes with pain? When you love someone, you open yourself up to be hurt. Whether you lose that person through death or through another means, one day, you will lose them. Every human love is a love that will be, eventually, lost.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.”
Then, if you are a Christian, we are called to an even more radical love- a love of our neighbors and our enemies- meaning we are called to love people who may never return that love.
We are called to love people who may actively hate us. In fact, that’s a defining characteristic of the Christian faith.
Which makes you wonder, “What’s the point? Is love worth it?”
I have been working on my newest book, Love Done Right: Reflections. One of the things that has just jumped out to me is that while love is hard, and can be painful, it is worth it. Love invests in another person like few other things can.
People are not changed when we throw money at them, or when we solve their problems.
They are changed when they are loved as people, created in the image of a loving God. Not only are they changed, the ones who love them are changed, and, the ones who they grow to love will be changed.
Money runs out. Time runs out. The influence of a “pay it forward” eventually stops.
If I give you five dollars, you go and buy yourself a cheeseburger, and it’s over. The five dollars is done. Tomorrow, you will be hungry again. The only thing money has solved is a temporary hunger. The only thing sex “solves” is a temporary hunger.
But if I love you, I invest in you. That investment may involve time, money, and other material things, but the foundation is a genuine interest and concern for you, as a person, as a whole person- not just a body to be used, or a problem to be fixed.
If I take the time and do the hard work of loving my neighbor, my friend, my enemy, that love first changes me. It removes my defenses, makes me approachable, gives me empathy and draws me nearer to God, Love himself. Then, that love changes those I love in the same ways- by removing their defenses and showing them a picture (albeit very imperfect) of love Himself. Ideally, then, those people, changed by love, go on to love others as well.
My one investment of love has the opportunity to impact more people than I could ever meet or know. Sex can’t do that. Money can’t do that.
Sex is “easy.” Lust is easy. Fantasy is easy. Swiping left is easy. Snapping a nude is “easy.”
They are easy because they don’t change other people. For the most part, they are self-focused- my wants, my needs, my happiness, my satisfaction.
Relationships (not just the romantic ones) are hard because they involve other people and there is a balance that has to be found (i.e., no, just because he wants to have sex doesn’t mean you have to oblige- even in marriage). We are imperfect people trying to love and live with other imperfect people. Of course that isn’t going to be easy.
Love is hard. It is the only thing that makes a lasting difference and gives our very existence purpose. There is no hope found in existing solely for sex. Love, on the other hand, gives us eternal hope, and brings lasting change.
It is not easy, but it is worth it.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”
– 1 Corinthians 13:3
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