In Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution, Christopher West says, “In the moment we reject our receptivity before God and grasp at our own ‘happiness’ we turn our backs on God’s love.”1 He is making a significant point about the nature of love and sexual fulfilment. Neither love nor sexual fulfilment are things to be grasped; they come as by-products when we are receptive and when we give ourselves to others.
Thomas Merton said, “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”2 In reality, because our biology and our psychology are corrupted by The Fall, we are broken inside. We often choose to grasp at our own happiness and gratification rather than open ourselves and give of ourselves to others. We choose not to wait for the reward. We are so sure that someone – our spouse, our God, or perhaps just the universe in general, will hold out on us and not give to us. So we grasp at love and gratification; we choose to take it for ourselves rather than be patient and take what comes to us as we give to others. We wound others. Others wound us.
It is the story of the Garden of Eden. You may not necessarily believe the story of The Fall but you will certainly recognize human nature in Genesis 3:1-24. Adam and Eve are given everything they could ever want but still they wonder if there is something more. They are led to believe that God is holding out on them. They want more and choose to take it for themselves. Each one takes what they are not to take and each one blames another. Trust is broken, shame and pain are experienced and there is no going back. The things that have been done and the trust that has been broken live on. God is the only one who can provide ultimate forgiveness and peace.
This story is lived out daily in current events. One person believes they have a right to another person’s body or to another person’s possessions. There is blame and justification. There is shame, pain and horribly destructive behaviour. Trust is broken and there is only one way back.3
“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved.” (Merton) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
1 (West 2009)
3 This blog owes much to the “Sex Matters” sermon series preached by Rick Scruggs at Bow Valley Christian Church, June 8-22.
West, Christopher. Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution. Rome: Ascension Press, 2009.