Spent an hour this AM reading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together which he wrote while teaching at the illegal seminary in Finkenwalde Germany in 1935. The Seminary was closed two years later by the Gestapo. He draws a sharp contrast between “human love” and “spiritual love.” Here’s some of my favorite thoughts:
Most of what we call ‘love’ is really our pursuit of the fulfillment of a desire within us. That’s human love. Spiritual love, according to Bonhoeffer, does not desire but rather serves.
Human love has little regard for the truth when it comes between it and the beloved person. Thus it often desires the other person, her company, her answering love, but it does not and cannot serve her. That’s why human love is devastated when the fake/selfish fellowship is broken, because human/worldly love cannot love the one who resists it. Spiritual love is free to love and serve even its enemies, because it is not dependent upon the fulfillment of its desire but on Christ.
Human love makes an end of itself, nursing and cultivating an ideal. It loves itself and nothing else in the world. Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ and serves him alone knowing it has no immediate access to the other person.
Spiritual love, because it serves rather than desires, is free to love even enemies as brothers and sisters because it doesn’t originate in that brother or sister: it originates in the Word of God.
Spiritual love releases the other person from our attempts to regulate, coerce, or dominate them with our ‘love.’
Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become, taking the life of the person into its own hands. Spiritual love draws its image of the other person from the God who created that person, and respects the line drawn between them and the other. Thus, spiritual love is wholly dependent upon the truth in Christ.
Human love is ordered by our desires. Spiritual love is ordered by the truth.
In other words, knowing Jesus Christ frees us from self-seeking narcisisstic pursuits of community & coercive forms of love inasmuch as we realize that “God is love.”