But as I say, this artesian well of love in us, God’s own love, can be tampered with, can’t it? Bad things can happen to it.
It can get paved over, for example. So that all or almost all the love goes out of a person’s life.
Or it can get polluted, for example. Salt water or poisons of various kinds can get injected into the limestone substrata of our beings so that the artesian water, the living water in us, becomes vile. Becomes dangerous to us and others.
Or the form this water is allowed to take when it bubbles up in us can get restricted. The hydrology engineer in us might cap and contain this artesian well and construct water works so that this water can only be released or shaped into only a few of its many possible forms.
In other words, things can go wrong with love. Our love for others. Our ability to experience God’s love for us. Our ability to love God. And our ability to experience others’ love for us.
We all know people in whom love has gone wrong. In fact, in all of us, from time to time, it might accurately be said that something goes wrong with our love—our ability to accept and express love.
I know plenty of Christians who have been taught that their feelings are unimportant or dangerous or both and that therefore their feelings in general should be ignored. Should be set aside. Paved over. And so, because they have been taught this, and they believe it, they therefore act on it.
They pave over the sources of many of their emotions. Curiously, anxiety, fear, hostility, depression, and anger are not well regulated in these people. But love, joy, and peace are. It’s almost as though when one puts a lid on love, joy, and peace, what comes to the surface are these other emotions, whether we like it or not.
In addition, some people have been abused or have suffered great traumas, and it is as though someone has injected poison into their artesian water. Into their living water. And the result is that love comes out as a poisonous emotion. Poisonous to the person himself and to the objects of that person’s now quite poisonous and destructive love.
Some people severely restrict their experience and expression of their love. They strictly confine love relations to spouse and children, for example. Others confine their expression of love only to their work. Others restrict their love from expressing itself in erotic or sexual forms. And so on.
Jesus tells us to love God and love one another for a reason. He doesn’t tell us this because he wants to punish us or because he wants to make our lives difficult or uncomfortable. He tells us this because we are made this way. We are made to love God and one another.
Loving God and loving others therefore fulfills our nature. And when we don’t, things often go wrong. And we end up quite miserable and potentially ineffective. Ineffective as promulgators of God’s kingdom. Ineffective as spreaders of the Gospel.
And when Jesus says love God and love one another, what he doesn’t say explicitly but what he means is for us to allow ourselves to be loved by God and to be loved by others in return. In his mind, it goes without saying. Think of love as a joining of hands with the objects of our love. As we touch those we love, we also are touched by them in return.
This is quite important, because one of the things that also goes wrong with our love is that we get played out. We give and give to God and those around us, but we do not allow ourselves to receive simultaneously.
In this case, we are love transmitters only. And this means that we do not fully connect with God and with others. We do not fully love God and others if we are only in transmit mode.
Love is ideally bidirectional. Reciprocal. Particularly regarding our love for God. If we do not also allow God to love us, our love for others diminishes. Without allowing ourselves to receive God’s love, our love for others may even disappear.
In other words, God’s love for us is essential for spiritual health. If we cut off the source of the living water in us, we will quite simply be unable to love others or God.
Our love is God’s own love coursing through us and back out to God and to others. And this circuit. This loop. Or really, when others are included—these many many loops. Create a new dimension. A love dimension. A spiritual dimension. The spiritual realm that Jesus calls the kingdom of God.