Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:8–12, ESV)
Given the fact that the Bible tells me that “God is Love”, it’s surprising how long I lived under the impression that love was primarily a need or lack in me that was fulfilled by someone else. This leaves me imagining that God loves me because He needed someone to love, or because He was lonely or some such thing. Yet love is, when we get right down to it, more real than that. Love is not the result of need, but the power by which needs are fulfilled, primarily by God.
It is true that love needs an object (one of the reasons I believe in a trinitarian God…. that and the Bible tells me so). We talk about a love interest romantically as someone who “completes me”, or who I “need more than air” (or some other romantic verbiage that looks kinda silly outside of the romantic films they feature in). In the regular friendship situation, we think of friendship love as that which staves off loneliness, or gives meaning to our lives.
Love does those things, but I’m learning that the instrumental way we define things (something is like this, because this is the way we can use it) is at best a little deficient. It makes something the Bible seems to speak of in powerful and glowing terms into a mere method of fulfilling a need. It serves to make me as the object or subject of love more important than the love involved, as if love is valuable because it helps me, instead of being something that is valuable whether it meets my felt needs or not.
Even when John talks about love and how God is love, he says that God’s love is made manifest (revealed, made clear) in that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. It’s not that He is loving because he sent His son, but that he is love, so as a result He sent His Son. God’s love is not a result of God’s loving actions, but is the ground for God’s actions. He is not love because he does loving things, but he does loving things because He is Love.
Seems like a minor distinction? It’s actually very profound, especially if we see God’s love (as Paul does) as the ground for our own actions. You see, we do not love because we want to be loving, but because we have God’s love in us, we should do loving things. It is a reuslt of having been love.
Love is a positive thing, a real thing,not a fulfillment of need. It is not a corruption, but real in itself. Thus love is not about how we need others, but ultimately about how God’s love overflows in us, and through us to others.
July 1 is a bit of a different day in Newfoundland. It is Canada Day, and so people will be celebrating the birthday of the country (149 years today), but it is also Memorial Day for Newfoundland, commemorating a disastrous battle for the Newfoundland Regiment during the first world war (100 years ago today), and more broadly those who served and died in the war. It was one of the concessions we in Newfoundland made to the dominion of Canada in joining them in 1949, that we now have a slightly bipolar day at the beginning of July.
My family has a link to the battle of Beaumont Hamel (the specific engagement that saw hundreds of members of the Newfoundland regiment killed in roughly 40 minutes). My grandfather, Frank Dawe, was a member of the Newfoundland Regiment throughout the war.
Granddad was 82 by the time I was born. I was one of a twin born to his youngest son so I didn’t know my grandfather as anything other than an older man, who in his youth had had some noteworthy experiences in some far off exotic war.
Regimental number 915, Frank G. Dawe volunteered for service with the newly founded Newfoundland Regiment on January 8, 1915, 6 months after hostilities had begun in Europe. Most people of the time, not yet experienced in mechanized trench warfare, believed the war would be over in less than a year.
He sailed from Newfoundland in 1915 from St. John’s, and joined the regiment as they trained in England, not knowing where he would eventually see service.
By this time, the Ottoman Empire had entered the war to support their German allies (and to help stay Russian ambitions to regain Constantinople… and access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean). This was expected to have little effect, as the Ottoman’s were seen as a weak and tottering empire, which probably led to the decision to attack the Dardanelles (and eventually take the Bosphorus… and access to the Black Sea). Thus the Newfoundlanders (and my
grandfather) first saw action, not in combat against German, but against the Ottomans in the battle of Gallipoli (a battle also infamous to our cousins the Australians and the New Zealanders).
The regiment’s first death of the war was a Pte. Hugh Walter McWhirter, killed by a Turkish shell on Sept. 22, 1915. His regimental number (902) was close to my Grandfather’s, so it is likely they knew each other, probably fairly well. While the Newfoundlanders distinguished themselves as brave and competent soldiers in the conflict, the campaign was doomed to failure, and after three hellish months, the Newfoundlanders were evacuated back to Europe. After 3 months of training and regrouping in Egypt, The rest of the war would see them in France and Belgium.
Frank Dawe was in action with the rest of the Newfoundland Regiment as they served along the front lines after March of 1916. On June 15 of 1916, he was one of 11 men wounded during shelling, which the commanding officer by now called “situation normal”. This would mean that Granddad would be in hospital when the order came on the morning of July 1, 1916 to go over the top at the beginning of the battle of the Somme. The battle would have over a million casualties over the next 5 months, of which Newfoundland’s experience would be a small part.
At the beginning of the battle, hundreds of Newfoundlanders were cut down by the machine guns some elements British command had believed were “overrated”. The shelling the allied command had hoped would dislodge the German defenders had not been as effective as hoped, and so the Newfoundlanders ended up running headlong into largely intact defences.
The tragedy for Newfoundland is hard to overestimate. The population of the then-country was a little over 255,000, so the death of hundreds of her young men hit hard back here in the Dominion of Newfoundland. That is why July 1 bears such a huge importance for Newfoundland over and above the anniversary of the promulgation of the British North America Act (which serves as the birth of Canada, a foreign
country to us until April 1949). Most of the people my grandfather had served with in multiple engagements against both the Ottomans and the Germans died that day. I feel a little bad now, how I asked with shining eyes for him to tell me about the first world war. I was young and still believed that such things could be exciting. He only told me he spent months dirty in a potato field.
Granddad’s war ended during the battle of Arras on April 14th
between 9 and 10 AM. His company had moved forward to take an area in advance of the front, near the town of Monchy Le-Preux. That morning, a German counterattack
pushed back many of the defenders and surrounded his company’s position. As a Lewis gunner, he was unable to retreat under the advance, and as the story is told among members of my family, A German officer came up behind him and with his sidearm drawn informed him in perfect English, that the war was over for him. While he was reported in Newfoundland as missing in May of 1917, it would be July of that year before he would be confirmed as a prisoner in Germany.
It’s said he would attempt escape from the POW camp 3 times over the next 19 months, but before he would successfully escape, the war ended on November 11, 1918. The man w
ho was once Cpl. Frank G. Dawe would return to Newfoundland, eventually marry and have a family, which is why I am here to write this. Today, my niece, his granddaughter, is on the fields of Beaumont Hamel, to commemorate a battle my Grandfather missed, even as many of his compatriots did not, and paid for that difference in experience with their lives.
So today, as Canada celebrates its birthday, I also join with my fellow Newfoundlanders in remembering the sacrifice of so many of those who did not live to help build up our nation, now our province.
Avoiding Scandal: Marvin Olasky at World Magazine comments on a rule made by Billy Graham that may have saved Tullian Tchividjian from the present scandal. At some point I’ll need to reflect on grace in light of this.
Welcome to reading some of the things I’m finding interesting today:
November 11: While in my present home of Korea, November 11 is “Peppero Day”, back home in Canada, it’s Remembrance day, and there is a debate this year about the white poppy as opposed to the red poppy.
Abortion and Slavery: Thabiti Anyabwile gives some ideas about making the link to abortion while not being disrespectful about one of the millennium’s (other) greatest evils.
Gay Rights and Freedom of Religion: The Daily Mail reports on a case where the two are coming into direct conflict. I have passionate opinions on this one, but it’s a difficult dilemma to say the least.
How to Listen to a Sermon: For those of you who listen to me on the itunes feed, here are some ideas on how to get something out of the preaching of a very fallible human.
“If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” Proverbs 29:9
“A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.” – Proverbs 17:10
One of the advantages of living in east Asia is that election results I’d have to stay up late to hear when I was back in Canada, come in at pretty regular intervals during my waking hours in Korea. It’s even better when it’s during a US election, which tends to have interesting commentaries, and honestly has very little to do with me, a Canadian expatriate.
That said, it also gives me an opportunity to see the opinions of friends of mine as they express their own understanding of the situation in the US. To be blunt, very few wind up agreeing with me on much of anything when it comes to politics, which is honestly okay, because I’m not too worried about being silenced for my difference of opinion quite yet.
That said, I have been noticing a very troubling trend in public discourse over the last little while. I don’t think it’s a new thing, just something I’ve only noticed recently.
It has become common to make moral judgements about people who come to different conclusions than you do. I noticed this first when I expressed my right wing proclivities to a friend of a friend, who said that the only person who could be right wing was either evil or stupid, and I was forced to ask which he thought me to be. Of course, he stammered for a while, since previous to this, he had had no reason to doubt either my love for my fellow man, or my intellect. I never really got an answer.
The reason he had made his statement, however, seems to me a rather common set of assumptions in modern western dialogue, and I think stems from a mixture of pride and a misunderstanding about intelligence. Quite simply, people want to be seen as smart, because in the modern technological age, it’s seen as very important to be intelligent, and to be seen as intelligent. You can see this most readily in the way people denigrate opposing positions (as my friend did) as “stupid”. Note that the problem isn’t that the opposing position is incorrect or dangerous or immoral, rather, the opposing position is seen as lacking in intellect, meaning that the person holding the position is also seen as stupid.
The problem is that this shows a fundamental failure to understand the nature of intellect. While it is true that smart people often know a lot of details about things, it is not the knowledge of details that makes one intelligent. Even less is intelligence marked by holding “correct” opinions about given subjects. The simple fact is that there are many very intelligent people, who for very good reasons, have held incorrect opinions; most commonly due to a lack of pertinent information (or a lack of seeing information that is pertinent as pertinent).
Intelligence is not marked by the ability to hold correct opinions, but rather by the ability to come to correct conclusions. This is NOT the same thing. Anybody can learn correct opinions and not know the reasons behind those opinions (which means they cannot adequately critique their own opinions). An intelligent person is one who, once given the necessary information, will be able to synthesize that data into valid conclusions based on the data.
Unfortunately, finding out about that takes a great deal of work. To know if a person’s opinions are intelligent based on that kind of synthesizing of information, you need to look at the information, and the person’s reasoning, not just the conclusion. It is far easier to simply look at the concluding opinion and make a judgement on that. Unfortunately, the result is that people who do that often then label conclusions that are different from their own as stupid without actually looking at the evidence and reasoning, meaning that the opposing position cannot do any work to correct errors in our own thinking.
This is compounded by a level of pride in society that wishes for us to see ourselves as intelligent. Being corrected is hard, and often not comfortable. It can lead to the questioning of cherished beliefs, or to isolation from a majority position, and is almost always a blow to pride. Thus it is often much easier to insulate our own opinions from critique, by grading opposing positions based on the conclusions rather than on the reasoning that got there.
This is why it is important to know, not just correct opinions, but the reasons behind correct opinion.
I think that is also why in the recent political movements in the United States, denigration of the opposition as unthinking or stupid became the norm, with statements themselves seen as being stupid without looking at the reasoning behind them (why do Keynsean economists think that government spending can stimulate an economy, why did a failed senate candidate think that the first amendment did not contain “the separation of Church and state”, etc.).
The question then is simple. Will we take the easy road of acceptable opinion, or the much harder road of humility and examination? Will we do the work of finding out why an opinion is correct or incorrect, or simply rest on the perceived intelligence of our own conclusions?
I fear in my own heart, I often do not answer that question well.