Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The divine love is a costly love. It could not stand idly by while human creatures destroyed themselves. It had to get involved. As the French philosopher Alain Badiou says of love: "Love without risk is an impossibility, like war without death." This makes sense of the passage that brides love so much: Paul's hymn to love in 1 Corithians 13. It is not an ode to an abstract principle. It is a description of love as the divine being expresses it within the broken world of our experience - and thus it has to be patient, and kind, and keep no record of wrongs, since this is a world in which there wrongs, and irritations, and cruelties. It demands not disinterested objectivity, but deep involvement in the world. It cannot help but draw you in.

The pattern of the divine love then teaches us that the way to the good is neither through pure self-expression, nor through a complete and rational disinterest. Love demands costly action for the sake of the other, but its demands cannot be calculated by some formula. Love may involve not pleasure but suffering - not a suffering imposed on others in conformity to some principle, but a suffering for the sake of others. To act out of love can never be to act out of complete selflessness, because the acts that love forms result in joy for those who do them. But this joy does not corrupt the act and make it less good in some way.

Could we then ask, not what brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number, nor what universal law does my action fulfil, nor what freedom to express my inner self does it allow, but rather what is an expression of the ethics of love? Could that form the basis for an extraordinary social, moral and political vision?

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