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Module 8 - Introduction to Charity.docx

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Religious Studies
RS 180
Carolyn Brown

Module 8 – Introduction Charity, the love of God - Journal of C.S. Lewis’s experiences with the death of his wife, Joy - Use it as a transition from looking at the love of Eros to the love of Charity - We are going to use the rest of Lewis’s story to look at how he has, in his own life, struggles with his faith in God - His experience of this death raised many questions for him about God  About his faith in God  About who God is  About what life means  About what death means - In our culture we have a very narrow sense of what this love of charity is about It is often profound experiences, like experiences of death, experiences of suffering that raise for people questions of ultimate meaning - Sense in Lewis that his own struggle with this grief really brings to the surface the root of his questions - Why bother to love in the first place if love will inevitably lead to suffering and loss - The interconnection between love and suffering Suffering as a Way to God – Jerome Miller and A Grief Observed Jerome Miller article, The Way to Suffering - Heart is not just about the feelings we have - My heart is the very core of who I am - Miller gets this sense of heart from the Hebrew scriptures and writings - “That mysterious centre of my being that’s so hard for me to know.” - Miller talks about what happens to your heart, to yourself, when you have very deep experiences - “When the very centre of the self is deeply affected, as happens for instance to a young person when he or she falls deeply in love for the first time. What happens? One’s whole way of thinking about the world, one’s whole way of feeling about the world, is profoundly and permanently altered, and no part of you is exempt from that.” - Somehow who I was before this experience of love, that person is no longer there - The world is different, and my understanding of it is different, my experience of it is different - That sense of being totally changed at the core of one’s being; that is what falling in love can do, that is also what experiences of death, suffering, and loss, can do - That also through suffering we can come to know things about ourselves, we can understand the world and we can shift our understandings of God We don’t really think about God all the time - “if God does exist there is little effect on us, we keep our hearts as buried as we can” - We don’t want God interfering in our everyday living - Challenge that Miller puts to us is trying to deal with the kind of God we thought we knew, the kind of God that we had in mind - How profound experiences bring all of our senses of God into question - Sense of God as a good God, a protector, a God who loves us profoundly, who loves the world profoundly - Lewis asks, “Where is that God?” - It seems to Lewis that when we are in our deepest moment, God is silent - He describes God as: “Some kind of doctor, cutting me open, breaking open our hearts. Giving us those profound experiences, not taking them away, not protecting us from t hem, not stopping the suffering in any kind of way” - If we have this sense of God as protector, then when we have real experienced of loss, we are rightly so full of anger, full of resentment, full of questions, about where God is How do you find out about who this God really is? - Will not be able to find out about it unless you allow yourself to enter into that suffering - If you stay with the ideas about God that you may have had when you were growing up, or the ideas about God that may be present in our culture, if that is what you hold on to, then your life will be full of resentment of this God - Lewis and Miller agree that something quite different happens for people - Jean Vanier in Being Human talks about the heart needing to be broken open, that there is a real place for suffering in human living - Choosing to enter deeply into suffering can bring you to an understanding of God, a more real sense of who God is - Important to surround yourself with love and to have support systems available to you, people who will allow you to deeply enter into the suffering - For Miller, the way to come to know of God’s existence is through experience - When we enter into the suffering, we find a deep sense of nothing, a sense of darkness - It’s not hard to enter into despair, to think that life doesn’t really have much meaning Friends can give us space, hold us while we enter into grief, keep hoping and believing for us - I know you are in darkness, and I know that in that darkness, it is easy for you not to hope - I will hope on your behalf - I know something new is being born here It is in the silence that we find God - You have to enter into the solitariness of that pain to hear it - Lewis learned the value and importance of entering into the suffering, and in doing that, came to a real sense of who God is - It changed his sense of who God is; he came to know God’s existence in a way he never had before - The experience of grief profoundly affected his relationship with God, his love for God - Part of experience loss and grief is going through total disbelief of God - Lewis through his struggle with grief, finds it hard to find evidence that God is good - It’s in this process that he came to realize how little he knew of God, how little he really knew of joy - What is this love of God that people do find? The Nature of the Love of God The love that God is, is different from the capacity in human beings on their own to give love to other people - When people who come to experience the love of God, they realize that they are sharing in God’s very being, or love - They recognize that this love is very different from the love that they are able to give other people There seems to be a limit in human being’s capacity to give love to another person - It is difficult for us to just give love to another - There is some dimension in human beings that when we give love to another person, we expect to receive something in return - The contrast that Lewis makes between human capacity to give love, and God’s giving of love, is that God absolutely gives love just because God wants to love - God simply desires what is best for the beloved; for human beings - When people come to know God, and how God’s love works within them, their own loving becomes more like God’s - To really share in the life of God, and to share in the love of God, means that we can love the way God loves - We can love people better for their own sake, not for what we can derive from that love It is natural for human beings to find certain people and things loveable - When we allow God’s love to be a part of our lives, it becomes possible for us to love even those who are unlovable - This is where you see the limitations of human loving - All of us can probably confront in ourselves, those people who we find hard to love - With God’s love, the capacity and the limitations start to get transformed; I am able to love what I naturally would find difficult to love When God shares with us God’s very own self, it makes us want to give love to God in return - It’s not because God needs our love, or that we are somehow giving back to God something that God doesn’t have - What is it that I can give to God? What do I have to give to God? - All spiritual writing makes it very clear that what we have to give God is ourselves - In the Christian context, we are created free, and we don’t have to respond to what God has given us - I can withhold myself from God and God’s love, and I am free to give myself to God and to God’s love - The other thing we can give to God is the way in which we love people - What is clear to those who know the love of God is the capacity to  Love other people just because of who they are  Love people who we find unlovable  Give myself to God  Love strangers and love enemies - Christians believe that all of this is possible because God is working in us because God is working in us because God’s love becomes a part of us, an transforms our capacity to love - There is a whole part of spiritual writing that is about giving, letting go of our desire to do everything, and allow God into our lives - God gives us a share in God’s own being, God’s own reality as love Dangers of Otherthinds of thve Before the 19 and 20 centuries, the love of God was explored in all the writings about love - It was an inherent part of the way that people would have talked about love and explored love - This is not so automatic in the 20th century - There were many warnings about how we can get too caught up in other kinds of love, too caught up in the love of our wives, husbands, children, or parents - These other kinds of love can keep us from loving God as fully as possible - It is possible for us to get caught up in the world around us that we have little concern, or attention, or interest in a love of God This warning comes out of Augustine’s own experiences, from his autobiography, confessions - Saint Augustine is one of the great Christian writers and teachers - Although he has many wonderful things to say, some of his ideas have been problematic - Augustine warns people to be careful of putting all your trust, all your love, into something that could go away into something that could die - This warning comes out of Augustine’s own experiences Lewis makes reference to Augustine’s autobiography, Confessions - As a result of a friend’s death, Augustine begins to question the meaning of life - The friend changes his life as he is dying, and the friendship suffers a bit - After the death Augustine struggles with the fact of death, and the loss of his friend - He struggles with his own sense of the grieving for his friend - What he recognizes is that the friendship meant so much to him, that when he lost it, he suffered so much pain - Lewis argues that this is not a very helpful thing for Augustine to say Lewis agrees that humans can be distracted from the love of God - Through the struggles in his own life, he can see the potential for human loves to get in the way - To Lewis, what Augustine says seems so far away from what Jesus Christ is about - “When I respond to the appeal that Augustine makes, I seem to myself to be thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything. I am sure that Christ’s teaching was never meant to confirm my preference for safe investments, and limited liabilities.” - To Lewis, belief in Jesus Christ in it essence, is not about playing it safe, is not about trying to find a love that you can be sure of having for the rest of your life - In fact, it seems that the message form the scriptures is that you are to love no matter what, and to risk no matter what - What is very clear in the New Testament writing is that suffering will be a part of responding to God and what God offers, and to the grace and love that God offers through Jesus - For example, in Paul’s writings you are baptized into the death of Jesus, as well as the resurrection He agrees that human can be distracted from the love of God - “Even if it were granted that insurances, or protections against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God offer those kinds of protections and insurances? Apparently not.” - God does not stop the suffering that is part of this world, but this does not mean that God leaves us alone in it - “There is no escape along the lines that Saint Augustine suggests. Nor is there escape along any other lines. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. If you love anything, your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly broken” - All the loves involve risk, and vulnerability, the possibility of pain, and heartbreak - “If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact, this is the way to do it. You must give your heart to no one. Wrap your heart carefully around with all kinds of hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all kinds of entanglements, lock up your heart safe in a casket or coffin of your selfishness” - “But be aware that in that safety, in that dark, sage, motionless, airless place, your heart will still change. It won’t be broken, guaranteed, just never love anything, or anyone, and your heart won’t be broken, but something will happen to it. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable” - The other option is to risk, to “break the heart of stone open” - For Christians, Jesus is a wonderful incarnation of that risk, of that openness of heart - The commitment to love with God’s love meant real death; the world could not handle this very well - “We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings that are inherent in all loves, but by accepting those sufferings, and offering them to God. By throwing away all of our defensive armour.” - The sense that a way to God is not by protecting and closing myself off, and guarding my heart so it never gets broken, but a real way to God is to open it up, to risk What are you Ultimately Committed To? Question isn’t: is my love for God too little, or not enough - Lewis’s struggle in A Grief Observed; did I love Joy too much? Is that why God took her away? - The real question is when the alternative, the choice, faces you, which do you put first? What matters more to you? - What is going to claim your heart, your soul, your will? - Example from the Gospel of Luke, “If any man comes to me and does not have his father, his mother, his wife, and his own life as well, then that person cannot be my disciple” - What might the word ‘hate’ mean in this context? - Is that what Jesus means in this statement? - This doesn’t seem to be quite like what the love of God, or love of Jesus, is about - Jesus is asking his followers, “What are you ultimately committed to?” - As long as other things get in the way, then the fullness of the possibility of the real love of God is not going to be there - Can you have two masters? - Are you going to put your ultimate trust in God or your ultimate trust in human beings, in human love? - The invitation is to put your ultimate trust in God - The idea is, if you put your ultimate trust in God, everything gets transformed - The affection you feel for people will be different, the friendship that you feel for people will be different, the Eros that you have will be different, and the love of God will change as well - A new person, a new creation, a new life What is this love of God about? - The love that God is offering is freely given, and the respon
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