Crazy in Love
This is the first in our Faith 101 Series. This series is an introduction to Christian theology and the Bible. Whether you know who wrote the gospels or where Jesus was born, this series will help you navigate what it means to have faith in the 21st century.
Back in 2003, Beyoncé — in her infinite wisdom — declared to the world that we can be ‘crazy in love’. She’s totally right, of course, but (controversially) I don’t think this is just the case for romantic love. Of course, romantic love makes you do crazy things, like travelling across oceans, buying expensive gifts, pledging the rest of your life to someone no matter what… it’s pretty intense. But maybe, just maybe, romantic love doesn’t have the monopoly on making people do crazy things.
Let’s take friendship, for example. Just the other weekend, I travelled 250 miles at 24 hours’ notice so I could surprise two of my closest friends at their engagement party. A few years ago, a friend came with me to the hospital in the middle of night when she had an (at that moment) completely unwritten essay due in under 12 hours. Other people I know have cancelled dates or postponed job interviews to stay with an unwell friend, or spent evenings clearing up their friend’s alcohol-induced vomit.
Or what about parents? What other motivation is there for a mother as she clears up yet another nappy filled with explosive diarrhoea? What else would give a person the patience to keep on answering the ‘but why, Daddy?’ questions from their four-year-old child’s mouth? I know that this can at least partially be explained through biology, but what of the parents of adopted children? There’s no biological reason for love, and yet its presence cannot be denied.
I’ve only covered three ‘types’ of love there, but I could go on. What about the love you have for a sibling? Or for a pet? What about that feeling you have for a sibling-in-law, which is more than friendship love, and yet still different from anything else? Or how about when we try to love people the world has labelled ‘unlovable’ — the outcasts, the rejected, the difficult ones? That’s a whole new realm of love. And all these ‘types’ of love — in one way or another — lead us to do seemingly crazy things.
And, of course, let’s not forget how vulnerable love makes us. That, too, is pretty crazy. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, puts it far better than I ever could: ‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.’
Love takes many different forms. Most of them lead to craziness and all of them lead to vulnerability. Why then don’t we just stop loving people? Why can we not stop ourselves from giving and receiving love, even when we know what risky, crazy vulnerability it presents?
Ultimately, it’s because we were created for love. We were created for love because we were created by the God who is love. It says in 1 John (one of the books of the Bible towards the end of the New Testament) that ‘whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’ (1 John 4:8).
That’s pretty crazy-in-love when you think about it, isn’t it? Not only is God’s love personified, but this passage then goes on to say that God showed us His love by sending His son into the world. That son came in the person of Jesus, who was then executed and raised from the dead. You can read more about Jesus’ life in any of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
I’ll be honest with you — this doesn’t clear up all my questions about love, or about God. But it certainly gives me a helpful starting block. 1 John 4 then says that ‘by loving, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us’ (verse 12). I find it deeply reassuring to know that even if I don’t fully understand the different types of love I’m giving or receiving, when I experience love (and the crazy vulnerability that comes with it) I am — in one way or another — experiencing something of God. And if that’s not crazy-in-love, I don’t really know what is.
WORDS BY Nell Goddard
Nell Goddard is Culture Projects Leader at The London Institute of Contemporary Christianity. Her first book, Musings of a Clergy Child: Growing into a faith of my own is being published by BRF in June 2017. Follow her @alianoree and check out her blog musingsofaclergychild.wordpress.com.