Living Word Church
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Down-to-earth people looking upward to God
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Love and Withdrawal
Copyright 2009 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved
We are far more likely to sin when we are keeping both God and others who truly love us at a distance. When we unhealthily isolate ourselves we do unhealthy things. Our relationship with the Lover and lovers of our soul is the very strength that keeps us from destructive and self-destructive actions. As beings that are designed for relationship it is impossible for this to be otherwise.
Why do we isolate to begin with? Often the answer is found in our desire to avoid pain. Relational pain has many guises. Some of this pain is actually God-ordained and part of our redemption. This is the pain of the encounter with the holy. Other pain is the result of the evil that dwells in both others and us and it gratifies only the Enemy of our souls. An example of the former is the discomfort that comes from encountering a perfect God in the midst of our own imperfection and knowing the rod of His discipline. An example of the latter is the misery of abuse, be it physical, emotional or sexual.
Whatever the source and nature of this pain is the temptation is to withdraw into the perceived fortress of ourselves. We depart from the company of God and the company of men in a vain attempt to escape the agents of our hurt. This is the result of our continuing inclination towards evil. No one who has reached heaven and been purified of all sin desires anything but perfect intimacy with God and those who share in His paradise. It is only our ingrained desire for autonomy and safety on our own terms, combined with the continued difficulty of living in a profoundly fallen world, which causes us to flee from divine and human company.
When we choose to run from relational pain we cut ourselves off from the very answer to human evil, love. No one can love or be loved in isolation. This may appear obvious since love, of course, implies relationships. However this apparently self-evident reality sometimes eludes us, especially when the love we have experienced seems imperfect at best and damaging at worst. At times we think we’d be better off alone than involved in something that feels less like love and more like rejection or neglect.
Yet real love exists. God’s love for us is perfect. Human love is not but it still exists, is divinely rooted, and is indispensable to our well-being. Without both kinds of love we have no motivation to resist sin and the Devil, a “loner” if there ever was one, takes full advantage of its lack. Temptation is defused by the experiencing of healthy relationships. It is amplified by isolation.
It is imperative that, despite its challenges, we who call ourselves Christians persist in the pursuit of deep connection with God and with fellow human beings, primarily those who belong to Him. The quest for intimacy in our earthly life is sometimes difficult, but it is not optional. Without it we become increasingly given over to evil, and thereby to death. Since sin thrives in the absence of love love must be our refuge…and love requires an object other than ourselves.