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Spiritual Love and Physical Life

Spiritual Love and Physical Life

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong … If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-5).

If we asked an astrophysicist about our existence, it is likely the response would involve words about carbon, foundational to all matter in the universe. And it is likely the answer would mention our presence here as a bizarre, remarkable confluence of random occurrences that generated what we are. Humanity exists, they might say, simply because inanimate carbon somehow became animated, infused with some sort of life force or energy that allows us to be. And this is truly a mystery, they might add.

A microbiologist would offer to this definition that existence is predicated upon reproduction. Biologically, our entire system of life, our reason for being, is to continue our species, to make more of ourselves. We, like other living things, have to reproduce or face extinction.

Consequently, we have biological attractions, urges that make procreation attractive and move us in the direction of reproduction. We can feel this and see it as it happens in ourselves, in other humans, and in other species. These urges fit nicely with what our microbiologist would share with us. And while both they as well as the astrophysicist can provide detailed analysis and physical evidence for random, competitive and arbitrary indicators of physical existence alone, there is something significant related to what we know about human existence that is missing in both accounts.

Neither our astrophysicist nor our microbiologist can logically and scientifically explain why we have this greatest of all mysteries in the universe: the reason for and the meaning of love. So let’s hear what the Bible has to say about existence in general and love in particular.

Psalm 103, interestingly, begins by agreeing with the scientists about carbon: “God remembers how we were made. From the dust[1] of the earth we are made.” But then perspectives diverge as we learn of this mysterious force, this power, this mode of being that the Bible calls love.

When life is filled with competition and survival of the fittest is the primary operational strategy for most social interaction, the biblical understanding of love makes no sense. In fact, from a survival standpoint, one could make the case that self-giving behavior, unselfishness, and love are weaknesses that might well be exploited by emboldened enemies.

But, over the centuries, reality has generally proven this not to be the case. Instead, we have a passage of scripture that declares the seemingly randomness of our creation is made most meaningful by the “steadfast love of the Lord that is from everlasting to everlasting.” We are not meaningful beings, nor truly successful beings, without love.

Without love, we are nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. Without love, we are nothing but carbon.

 

[1] Dust is made up, primarily, of carbon molecules.