I've just been punched in the stomach. Seriously my insides ache. Miroslav Volf is the culprit. He has beaten me to a pulp.
In A Public Faith, Volf says this:
"Jews, Christians, and Muslims (as well as adherents of other world religions) have a common mission in the world. It is not just to roll up their sleeves and collaborate in stemming the relentless and rising tide of human misery, whether that comes in the form of disease, hunger, violated rights, or a polluted environment. The common mission is also to make plausible in contemporary culture that human beings will flourish only when the love of pleasure, a dominant driving force in our culture, gives way to the pleasure of love. Different religions will disagree on how the transition from the love of pleasure to the pleasure of love can be achieved, and they will not see eye to eye about what a truly pleasurable love concretely means. Yet together they can create a climate in which love of pleasure has been exposed as empty and in which a robust debate is carried on about the most important question of all: ‘What makes for a life worthy of being called good?’” - 145
Why is this so hard for me to read?
Well, let's work through it. First, Volf asserts that the world's major religions have a common mission. First, let's help the hurting world. But let's not stop there.
What we need to do is figure out how to stop and begin to change the rampant "love of pleasure" that is so dominant in our culture. We need to cultivate a pleasure of love.
The distinction of loving pleasure versus pleasuring in love is a profound one. And upon personal reflection, it's a distinction that has my insides wanting to be on the outsides.
Do I love pleasure or do I pleasure in love? Well, one quick look inward at my heart reveals the truth. I love Cavs basketball. I love entertainment. I love candy and cookies and ice cream. I love games and tv shows. In short, heck yes, I love pleasure. I seek these things out and find ways to solidify them in my life. I cringe at giving them up.
And I seldom take pleasure in loving actions. I do them, occasionally, but it's rarely because of a delight in the act of loving someone. I will give my wife a neck massage, but it's a service--not a pleasure.
Volf says that the world's religions "together can create a climate in which love of pleasure has been exposed as empty…." And here again, when I reflect on the culture I'm creating even in my own home I pause and squirm.
Am I creating a climate in which my kids begin to believe that I delight more in loving them than I do watching a sporting event? Do they see me gaze upon them with eyes of love and delight, with a look of joy simply in the act of loving them, or do they see me gaze vacantly at my iPad, immersed in some article or some game?
How can I expect them to grow up pleasuring in loving others more than they love pleasure if they have never seen it modeled?
I model a love of pleasure far more than I model a pleasuring and a delighting in love.
So, "what makes for a life worthy of being called good?" Well, a cursory glance tells me that if I'm to have such a life I need to make some changes.
I want to begin to cultivate a delight in love, far more and greater than my love of pleasure. What this means practically I'll probably need to dwell on further, but this desire is a start.
And I want to help create, not only at home but in every sphere of life in which I'm active, a culture in which loving actions and thoughts and words bring me far more delight than the simple and ultimately empty delight in pleasure.
What does this quote make you feel? Can you relate with my guilt?