May 22, 2024
branch with leaves on white background bent in heart pattern

Loving broken people

By Brian Prince

“For this reason, a man leaves his father and mother; to be united to his wife and to become

one flesh with her.”

This line comes in the middle of the Origin story of the formation of man and woman.

Moses, the writer of Genesis seems to break character here to pass across a message to his audience. He narrates how the woman was created from man’s side and the response man has when he sees her for the first time. The man is drawn to the woman instinctively, recognizing that she came out of Man. He desires to be one with her in a place of intimacy and vulnerability, or in Bible language, naked and unashamed.

From that time, men and women have always gravitated towards each other in pursuit of oneness or intimacy. But due to the Fall, they have not been very successful and so there have been lots of hits and misses. But still the search continues.

It is amazing the lengths to which men and women will go to in search of intimacy. Some will travel for thousands of miles, spend millions upon millions, risk their lives, give away property, lie in court, forsake their faiths, just to be with a loved one.

This is a mystery that even Solomon could not figure out.

“There are three things too wonderful for me, four that I cannot understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship at sea, and the way of a man with a maiden.” (Proverbs 30:19)

Many of our favourite stories, films, songs and folklor, often end with the groom and the bride riding into the proverbial sunset. Think of all the Spanish soap operas, Swahili telenovelas, Nigerian movies and Bollywood stories. This goes beyond the genre because even action films will have a love story threaded in there.

Interestingly, even the Bible is filled with such love stories — Adam and Eve, Jacob and Rachel, Isaac and Rebecca, Christ and his bride.

Deeply embedded in the psyche of man is the persuasion that this is a befitting ending. We love, not just to be in love stories, but to watch and follow along others’ love stories. This is why social media channels pop up every day of couples who choose to invite others onto their love journeys. It works. People love love.

Selfish by default

But the problem is, with the Fall, man is not capable of true love by himself. When man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he became selfish by default. One of the consequences of the Fall was the antagonistic relationship between male and female.

“Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Gen 3:16 (ESV)

After the Fall, each individual’s primary motive became to look out for themselves. Self -preservation is the name of the game; we first look to secure ourselves before we can look out for the well-being of the next most important person in our lives. But just like death did not happen instantly, traces of true love still seep through every so often, as residues from the previous glory or from the Christ in us.

Seeking intimacy

However, a majority of us are not conversant with the notion of true love although we seek desperately after it because man was built to thrive in an environment of love. We are hardwired for love; to love and to be loved in a unique and exclusive way.

Often what we call love includes intimacy because it is intimacy that we really seek. We seek to be seen in the best way possible. We seek to be accepted wholly including our shortcomings, without judgement. We seek the kind of security that is provided by ‘love’ that overlooks a multitude of sins.

The problem is we go about seeking this from other fallen men and, therefore, keep being disappointed. Fallible man will do what fallible men do. People are weak and broken and full of contradictions. Any stock we put on people, however virtuous they are, will more often than not be lost.

This may sound hopeless and depressing but when we awaken to this reality, we start to realize how liberating it is. When we stop putting our trust on man or expecting man to do what only God has capacity to do, then we are free. It is possible to live without bitterness and offence because we learn to make an allowance for each other’s faults, as Paul taught.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Col 3:13-14 (NLT)

Broken people will break under pressure and often this will cause a mess. But this is the human condition. We can count on people to fall short. With this understanding, we will not be bitter, judgemental or jaded; but we will have grace for people when they need it.

This means love has to be willing to love even in the fallenness. Love by definition has to be unconditional. You tend to hear of the phrase, ‘That was really love’ mostly in occasions where one of the parties involved did the unthinkable and was forgiven. It is also when the worst in a person is not held against them — when the other party was justified in leaving but chose to stay — that we see the power of love. In this kind of environment, the broken find healing, the insecure find security and the hostile become docile.

Love has to be willing to love even in the fallenness. Love by definition has to be unconditional.

The notion of someone accepting you at your worst is so enlivening that suddenly one awakens to a higher version of themselves. It seems to trigger something in them that says: ‘If that person thought I was still worth it after my worst, then there must be something worthwhile about me.” And because now you perceive yourself as valuable, you can proceed to live up to your new-found value.

This is also one of the reasons why Jesus came — to model true love to us. The first and most important commandment is “To love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves”. Jesus then upgraded this to, “Loving others as He loved us”, even to the point of death. Clearly, this is not achievable by human effort. This is why He continues to work in us to desire and gives us the ability to do His good pleasure.

He put in us his ability to love like that. This is the nature that we inherit in Him — love as a nature and essence even before it is a verb. The opposite is perceiving love as a feeling of ecstasy, which unfortunately is the concept most have in and out of church.

In Christ our true nature is of love. We are love beings and because we are not in fight or flight mode anymore, we can now act from out true nature of love, expressed through giving generously, forgiving generously, seeing the best in others always, not judging, calling others up instead of calling them out and so on, the whole catalogue that is written in 1 Corinthians 13, which unfortunately has been reduced to a wedding passage.

Brian Prince is passionate about sharing the incredible love and wisdom of God as a minister, coach, thinker and storyteller.

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