I was reading fiction, which should be noted, because it doesn’t happen all too often. J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories is really quite good, but quite odd. The characters are brilliantly developed in limited time and often seem to be crazy. The last short story of the book, Teddy, centers on Teddy (appropriately), a young man who struggles dealing with his family as he develops his personal philosophy, which seems to be rather pantheistic. This quote struck me:
“’You love God, don’t you?’ Nicholson asked, with a little excess of quietness.
‘Yes, sure, I love Him. But I don’t love Him sentimentally. He never said anybody had to love Him sentimentally,’ Teddy said. ‘If I were God, I certainly wouldn’t want people to love me sentimentally. It’s too unreliable.’”
I was taken aback by Teddy’s response because it reminded me of myself. If someone asked me if I love God, I would say yes. If they probed a little more by asking how I love God, I would probably suggest that I love God by loving other people. Frankly, the only way I can conceive of how to love God is by showing love to God’s creation. I won’t go into everything that is loaded into ‘God’s creation’, but loving God’s creation primarily means showing love, care, and concern to human beings.
The notion of loving God in a sentimental manner doesn’t make sense to Teddy or myself. God commanded us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no command to love God sentimentally. Honestly, I am not in love with God. And I am definitely not “head-over-heels” in love with God. There’s something to be said about that being unreliable, and too particular to each individual. Sentimental love is dependent on how an individual feels at any given moment.
I can’t make sense of loving something that isn’t perceptible. In order for me to express love to something, it must be tangible. Therefore, I can love people. Why can I love people? I can love people because of the love of God. God is love. I am created in God’s image and thus am a representative of God, and am thus called to display the love of God to all peoples.
It seems to me that there is something pretty significant regarding Jesus in all of this. God sent Jesus to save our sins, right, I’ve heard that. But maybe there should be more emphasis on the idea that God sent his Son, Jesus, to display God’s love in human form. Without Jesus, God’s love for his creation wouldn’t be as pronounced, or as profound. Without Jesus, God’s love for God’s creation gets glossed over as impalpability, God’s love gets lost in ethereal confusion. Yet through Jesus, God’s love of God’s creation was demonstrated to be real, it became tangible.
Jesus loved people.
Loving people the only way I know how to love God.
I’m not head-over-heels in love with God but each day I try to become more infatuated with loving people the way Jesus did.