In the shadows of the Hindu Kush there is a constant hum of generators, and manoeuvering aircraft. Back in Gloucestershire it is strikingly silent, with the peace only punctuated by occasional sounds of light aircraft. Before I went away this quietness was taken for granted, it’s experiencing the alternative that has enabled me to appreciate what I have in a way I couldn’t before. Does this mean that we can only really learn experientially? It’s not that I didn’t recognise peace and quiet before, I have, in the past enjoyed and savoured tranquility but now my enjoyment is more profound, I can listen and enjoy silence in a way hitherto unknown.
There’s a lesson for us here about being immersed in culture and environment and rejecting from ignorance, authentic, regenerating, and illuminating alternatives. A gentleman called Zac from Uganda identifies it as tribalism. Because of our tribal perspective we cannot see those things that are plain to see.
This is helpful for understanding the claim, which culture rejects as nonsense, that only Christians can love their wives, husbands and family. Culture prefers the understanding of love provided through evolutionary theories of natural selection. These explain that the ability to love is genetically programmed for us to have the need to provide, protect and promote our species, tribe, or family. Love is bodily chemical reaction producing good feelings through opiates like endorphins. For the non-Christians who have never tapped into the very source from which Love flows, their love experience seems perfectly satisfactory. This satisfaction extends to the point where if you seek to explain to the non-Christian wife that she in fact doesn’t love her husband because she doesn’t even know love it is offensive, and I can understand why. However, explain to the wife who has been abandoned with children, that in fact her husband never truly love her, that it was a fabricated love without depth, or real commitment and she’ll have a better insight to the Christian claim about the difference between authentic love and the counterfeit love.
For example, a few years ago I thought I loved my wife. Before we were married I even stood on the summit of Aphrodite’s Rock in Cyprus and told her that I loved her. The trouble was, being ignorant of what love is, having no relationship with the source of love, my love was manufactured culturally, a figment of my over active imagination and loins. It was fuelled by a cultural diet of movies, folklore and desire to persuade a young, ill-educated woman, to carry on sinning with me. It is that same counterfeit love that we both imported into our marriage and caused the years of struggle while we worked through our lives as young parents, as so many continue do, without any idea of what true love looks like. Sadly for so many in our family, and many others, this artificial love results in abuse, neglect, broken promises and divorce.
There is so much from the culture we inhabit that will tell you with passion that I am wrong, and that what I am proposing is offensive and excluding. But stop and think about it. If what Christianity offers is true then whoever rejects it would naturally be offended. I know many men who believe and behave in a way that would seem they deeply love their wives. I know, for example, an elderly couple called Fred and Sue that believe they are deeply in love for me to suggest they are just using each other for comfort would be deeply offensive but nonetheless true.
You see if culture is right and I really did ‘fall in love’ with my wife after we met. If all those men who have broken their solemn marriage promises did really love their wives but they just “fell out of love”, or their “feelings”, changed, or their love expresses itself differently now, then love is not dependable, enduring, and trustworthy. How can you love someone if you accept culture’s definitions? If your love is susceptible to the corruption that infects so many relationships today then your apprehension is justified.
I encourage you to at least explore the love that knows no boundaries, the love that has passed the test. It’s the offer of being rooted in the source of nourishing, life-giving love. Humans are flawed, fragile and vulnerable and we need something more than our failed ideas, religions and philosophies on which to build relationships. We need a radical love, that surpasses human understanding, that exploded into human history 2000 years ago in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can provide the hope, purpose and encouragement our lives deserve. This is your birthright, your inheritance, this is not some good idea it’s good news – just turn and take the gift from your Father today.