Semper Reformanda

Some thoughts on the Church, theology, books, and whatever else.

My Photo
Location: St. Peters, Missouri, United States

I am studying philosophy at Lindenwood Universtiy in St. Charles Missouri. I have a brother and a sister, two great parents and we are all members of New Covenant Church. After I graduate, I'm planning on attending Covenant Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Ethics of Unrequited Love

How do we, as unmarried Christians, deal with romantic feelings, returned and unreturned, in a way that causes us to be more satisfied with Christ and more loving towards those we are drawn to romantically and those who are drawn romantically to us? Must love be returned for it to be worthwhile, or can unrequited love also be a love that conforms us more closely to the image of Christ? These are the types of questions that Laura A. Smit deals with in her book, Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love. Dr. Smit offers advice on how the love that we have for others can be a means of grace for us, even when it is not returned. She also discusses how we should act and show grace towards those who may be interested in us but whom we have no romantic feelings towards.

Our Christian culture often seems to simply encourage singles to try and make it through, to try and be happy, to try and be satisfied with Christ until that right person comes along. Marriage is seen as the normal course taken by all, and singles are, for all practical purposes, just bidding their time until they themselves can get married. Smit sees this as directly opposed to the New Testament picture of marriage. She states:

...this should be true of all romantic relationships: the burden of proof is on the decision to enter into such a relationship, not the decision to hold back.

With this in mind, the idea that in the light of the new creation that is coming we are being called to a life where we will not be given in marriage but will be consumed with a love for the person of Christ that will spill out towards others, single Christians must learn to deal with the issues of romance in a way that increases their love for Christ and develops a more Christ-like attitude toward others. Smit suggests that this can be done by seeing those who do not return our love as means of grace. These situations can give us a greater understanding of the way that Christ loves us. By loving someone who does love us in the same way we are disciplined to love selflessly, to learn to value a person simply for what we see in them and what they reveal to us of Christ. In this respect, unrequited love is not something that should be spurned or moved past quickly. If the only purpose we see for romantic love is to get married as quickly as we can, then we will never see unrequited love as something truly beneficial. Smit also deals with how we can reject and deal with rejection in a way that works towards the goal of seeing Christ's image formed in us to a greater extent.

This was a really interesting and encouraging read. There can be no doubt that the emphasis placed on marriage in the evangelical community can be disproportionate to the emphasis placed on the legitimacy of and the need for those who have purposed to remain single (which is virtually non-existent). As a twenty year old undergrad, I can personally attest to the existence of the mind-set in the church that says once you hit a certain age you are expected to start thinking about getting married. The implication seems to be that if you are not married or looking for someone to marry by the time you reach a certain age, then you are probably living in some sort of prolonged adolescence, one which you cannot escape until you are married. Smit provides a wonderful alternative to this mind-set and equips singles to deal with romantic feelings in a way that affirms them as good and as a means to grow closer to Christ through the love of another person.


Post a Comment

<< Home