At the heart of so much of our cultural confusion today is an impoverished understanding of what love truly is.
Several years ago I earned the wrath of a group of teenage girls at a Christian school. No, I didn’t question the divinity of Jesus or the historical reality of the resurrection. I did something worse: I made a sarcastic comment about the movie, “The Notebook.”
If you haven’t seen the 2004 film, it tells the story of Noah and Allie, who meet as teenagers in 1940s South Carolina. Noah is a poor country boy and Allie is an heiress. You can pretty much guess what happens next: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets her back again, and their love lasts through all kinds of trials and tribulations, including Allie’s eventual dementia.
The movie’s “message” is that their love “can do anything,” including arranging the time and manner of their mutual deaths.
As I describe in my book with Sean McDowell entitled, “Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage,” the girls at the school were aghast that I criticized the film and asked me how I could not like a movie with such a great picture of love.
They’re hardly unique in their confusion. It’s become increasingly apparent to me how impoverished our ideas about love truly are, and by “our” I include many Christians.
My response to the girls was that, in the film, the love that was supposedly unconquerable and inescapable was really nothing more than just strong emotions, strong feelings. And of course our feelings are fickle and transitory. What’s more, the feelings on display in the movie led the characters to break commitments, act selfishly, and otherwise behave badly, all in the name of, and somehow justified by, their “love” for one another.
Recently on “BreakPoint,” Eric Metaxas took the idea of romantic “soul mates” to task and exposed it for the unbiblical and pernicious notion that it is. Eric’s comments brought my experience discussing “The Notebook” to mind.
It also reminded me of the timeless importance of C. S. Lewis’ classic book, “The Four Loves.” Multiple generations raised on movies, television, and other popular culture are only acquainted with visions of love that are sentimental or erotic. For them, like the characters in “The Notebook,” love is just a matter of feelings.
But as Lewis told us, love is much more than that.
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