Let me explain my interest in the term “Good Love.” While living in Spain for 10 years, I became acquainted with a Spanish book from the year 1330, by an Archpriest named Juan Ruiz. The title of the book in Spanish is the Libro de Buen Amor, or the Book of Good Love. The basic premise is that God’s love is Good Love, and worldly love is crazy love. But there are many stories and fables, including the pursuit of women. After almost 700 years, the experts don’t agree on the author’s real purpose, or even what Good Love really meant to him. One expert even suggested to me that he thought the author basically wanted to have his cake and eat it too.
My favorite story from the Libro de Buen Amor is about a debate between a Greek scholar and a Roman ruffian, in sign language. Because most of you do not have access to this book, in English, I am making a second post today of the English text of the complete story of the debate in sign language. The illustration I get from the story is that people tend to find and see what they expect, based on what they use as a standard of interpretation. And I think the author intended to show with this story that his writing’s purpose was ambiguous enough to be different things to different people.
For example, the Greek scholar holds up one finger to say there is one God. The Roman thug interprets this as a threat to poke out his eye. So the Roman thrusts out two fingers and a thumb to say he will poke out the Greek’s eyes and break his teeth with his thumb. But the Greek interprets the Roman’s threat as a statement that no, God was three persons in one. Since they believe in the trinity, we should give them our law, concludes the Greek.
So how do WE interpret Good Love? Well, I’m inclined to agree to a point with a friend who said all love is Good Love, as we all need love. But I have learned in various situations, including work, that if you want the right answers, you have to first be sure you’re asking the right questions. If we accept that there are lots of different kinds of love, many or all of them Good Love, a more important question is how do we make Good Love into Better Love? I addressed one aspect of that last week, on Real Thanksgiving.
But I think the most important question is what is the Best Love? And how do we know that? What is our frame of reference? One example that often comes to mind from the Bible is John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Surely the fact that God loved the world enough to give his Son, for everyone with faith in the Son to have eternal life, would be an example of Best Love expressed by God. And in I John 3:16 (interesting it’s a different book, but same verse numbers) its reinforced: This is how we know what love is (I say Best Love): Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
One thing to notice, is that these two verses talk of action. We need to think of the word love as an action verb, not a noun. And again, if we look to the Bible, we find that Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees what was the greatest commandment. Jesus replied that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. (see Matt 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-31) If Jesus himself said these were the most important commandments, surely He would term these examples of love “Best Love”.
In I John, this message is repeated, that since God loved us enough to send his Son as an atoning sacrifice, because God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. And he again gave us the command: Whoever loves God must also love his bother. (see I John 4:7-21) So for me Best Love is based on the love God showed for us, which in turn motivates us to love Him, as well as love others. And we should all want to take all our Good Love, and make it Better Love, through the example of Best Love that God has provided.