Friday, November 14, 2014

The Hermeneutic of Love

What lens we look through determines what we see.

This, perhaps, was one of the most important lessons I learned and learned again and relearned while in seminary.

Where I stand shapes, well, everything.

I cannot understand what I cannot see.

And there is much I cannot see.

It is a conundrum.

Seeking to look through the lens of love helps greatly.

But I must take care to define very clearly what I understand love to be, to include.

Hence my own list:

1. Love is humble enough to know and freely admit to itself that it does not, cannot, know everything.  Thus even in understanding my own hermeneutic, I must always take care to remember this crucial caveat: I might be wrong. . . about you, about me, about ‘it’, whatever it may be, the simple truth is that I might be wrong.

2. Love is caring and caring requires the time and discipline and effort to do the work – the work of seeking understanding from your point of view . . . the work of listening . . . the work of loving, especially in the midst of conflict or disagreement . . . the work of self-evaluation and understanding, especially, perhaps, when I would seek to tell someone else what they ought or ought not do (which, of course, takes me right back to #1, that old friend and enemy, humility).

3. Love actively seeks to try to see from another’s vantage point, for love knows itself for the captive to self that it is.

4. Love always checks its own motives.  Assuring that I am acting from love, and not from bias, prejudice, self-interest, or efforts to control is hard, but important and necessary work.  Think Paul’s admonition about clanging cymbals here – without love as the motive, the impetus, a seemingly loving act is really nothing at all.

5. Love requires encounter.  I cannot love someone theoretically.  Love always has a locus, an object, a direction.  There is no abstraction in love.

6. Love is a freeing thing.  If what I’m doing is entangling, controlling, desirous of reward or recognition, filled with expectation, it’s something, but it isn’t love.  Pretty simple.

7. If it isn’t about ‘I’ or ‘we’, but all about ‘you’, it’s not love, it’s control.

8. If I cannot see myself in you or your situation, I haven’t looked hard enough (which takes us back to doing the hard work of loving, eh?).

9. I cannot say that I am loving when I ‘love’ one person or group at the expense of another.  (Think here of MLK”s reminder that what he did he did for the oppressor, whom he loved, as much as for the oppressed).  Standing up for one does not mean demonizing another – that is not love or loving.

10. And back to the beginning – the humility of love must recognize that God is doing a work in you as much as God is doing a work in me, stand back and allow you and God to sort out your business as we are sorting out mine.  In other words, I am no one’s god and in loving you, it is not my job to change you.

11. The hardest one of all for me – loving someone probably means not making decisions for or about them when they’re not in the room.  It’s that freeing freedom thing – allowing someone the freedom of their own lives, their own choices.  Even the bad ones.  Hmmm.

I am wondering today what you would add to this list – what are the things you have to remember about your own hermeneutic of love?


  1. This post is so beautiful -- and so difficult! I forwarded it to all of my children and the oldest grandchildren. Makes one take a long, hard look at what we have always considered "loving".. Thanks so much for clarifying and reminding us!

    Peace and love,

    1. Marilyn, I often get stuck wondering why it's so hard - and why I have to keep relearning lessons I already know, especially when it comes to this loving. Work in progress. Thanks for checking in. Peace be with you, Beth