One part of my paper involves an idea I initially floated here, something I call "The Triangle of Love." The Triangle of Love comes from the three loves mentioned in Greatest Commandments:
Matthew 22:36-40Summarizing, the three foci of love:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love of God: "Love the Lord your God."In the paper I describe these loves as:
Love of Other: "Love your neighbor."
Love of Self: "as [you love] yourself."
Cultic(The word "cultic" might need some explaining. The word cult here is referring to religious activities that are devoted to the care and honoring of a deity. The word cult comes from the Latin colore, meaning to "cultivate" or "care for" in a gardening sense. Applied to religious life, then, cultic activity is the "care for" a God or gods--usually through rituals of worship, honoring, and veneration. Things that we would consider to be forms of "loving God.")
The thing that I focused on in the paper is how tensions and conflicts exist between the three different loves. For example, members of a place like Westboro Baptist Church think they are loving God in being hateful to their gay neighbors. Conversely, liberal Christians are often excellent in loving their neighbors by focusing on social justice but evangelical critics argue that the liberals have dismissed loving God in, for example, honoring God's Word.
There's also a tension between the Humanistic and Therapeutic loves. Specifically, when is a focus on the self a form of self-care versus a form of selfish self-absorption? When we are wounded and hurting there is a time for therapeutic inwardness, a time for healing and renewal. But there is also a time to move out of your comfort zone. A time of opening outward toward others and allowing the boundaries to become blurred in making ourselves more available to others.
All that to say that loving isn't easy or obvious. Much of the Christian life is spent navigating the intricacies and negotiating the conflicts within the Triangle of Love.