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A Brief Meditation on the Fiery “Violence” of Love

June 21, 2017

One of the great paradoxes of creation and our existence in God’s world is that many blessings are unlocked by explosive, even violent forces. The very cosmos itself is in a kind of process of hurtling outward in a massive explosion. And here we are, living midway (?) through that explosion.

When I see fireworks on the Fourth of July, I often think that each of those beautiful, fiery explosions is a miniature replica of the cosmos. Everywhere in the universe, the burning embers we call stars and galaxies glow brightly as they hurtle outward at close to one hundred million miles per hour. Yes, from one great singularity, God sent the power of His fiery, creative love expanding outward, giving life, and seeming almost limitless. The cosmos is unimaginably large, and yet its creator is infinitely large.

Even here on Earth, a relatively cool and stable bit of dust compared to the Sun, we stand upon a thin crust of land floating over an explosive sea of molten, fiery rock. The Book of Job says,

As for the earth, out of it comes bread; Yet underneath it is turned up as it were by fire (Job 28:5).

This fiery cauldron produces the rich soil in which we grow our very bread. The smoke and gases of the fires provide essential ingredients of the atmosphere that sustains us. The molten fires beneath us also create a magnetic field that envelops Earth and deflects the most harmful of the Sun’s rays.

Yes, all around us there is fire with its explosive violence, yet from it come life and every good gift.

To such small creatures like us, God’s expansive love can seem almost violent. Indeed, there are terrifying experiences near volcanos and from solar bursts that remind us that love is both glorious and unnerving. It is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of a living God (Heb 10:31).

We, too, in some of our greatest works, use violent means. The blades of our plows cut into the earth, violently overturning it. We raise animals and yet lead them to slaughter for food and clothing. We break eggs to make omelets. We stoke fires to cook our foods and warm our homes. We smelt the iron and other ore we violently cut from the earth. Even as we drive about in our cars, the ignition of the fuel/air mixture in the engine causes explosions, the energy from which is ultimately directed toward moving the vehicle.

Violent though much of this is, we do these things (at least in our best moments) as acts of love and creativeness. By them we bring light, warmth, and food. We build and craft; we move products and people to help and bless.

Yes, there is a paradoxical “violence” that comes from the fiery heat of love and creativity. The following is an excerpt from Bianco da Siena’s 14th century hymn to the Holy Spirit, “Come Down, O Love Divine”:

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming

Fire—you can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Let the fire burn; let the seemingly transformative “violence” have its way. It makes a kind of paradoxical sense to us living in a universe that is midway through its fiery, expansive explosion of God’s love and creativity.

Disclaimer: Gratuitous violence for selfish and/or merely destructive ends is not affirmed in this post. The term “violence” is used here in a qualified manner, as an analogy to convey the transformative and creative power of love phenomenologically.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Todd says:

    I believe as a husband, father of seven children, and police supervisor that the use of “necessary violence” up to and including lethal blows – in other words ‘a willingness to enter into physical combat’ with an unjust aggressor(we used to call wolves) is not only a “grave duty” for those responsible for the lives of others, but also an act of love. Why? How? Combat is dangerous – and you may well lay down your life for your friends (family), and for your enemies, for those who hate you – if you’re a police officer today. It is “love” for those you defend!

    Violence that is not necessary, selfish, or merely destructive is evil. However the Two Edged Sword cuts both ways. As a father I do not get to sit on a fence and choose to be pacifist – for it is a “grave duty,” that I defend those lives I’m responsible for. Fight or die my friends.

    Think about that the next time you hear of a fallen police officer. They are of the few willing go into the communities no one else wants to go into. Police risk their very lives when they step into the gap between a wolf and the sheep or goats – and even between two wolves. It is noble indeed – that officers are willing to risk their very lives that others “might,” live. Incidentally from a spiritual perspective that is what Jesus did for us. He entered into the spiritual combat and laid down His physical life that we “might,” live – spiritually. Of course that is the highest “love.” In so doing He defeated sin, Satan, & death. That we might have Life – who IS Jesus. A willingness to “fight” accepting death should it come is love for the Good, True, and Beautiful. These I believe are hard sayings my friend.

    How long until we see the politicians, race baiters, or media type persons speeding to the most dangerous drug infested gangland neighborhood in your community – willing – willingly challenging and using the absolutely necessary violence to stop or apprehend an unjust aggressor. It seems many people today no longer believe in wolves.

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

    If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

    2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

  2. ShawnWilliams says:

    Beautifully written! Thanks for clarifying the meaning of “real love.” This is something everyone should understand because it can help to change our world. Your message needs to be repeated and spread until everyone “gets it!, great eassy typer.