Love – the only name that matters

caspian-aslanMy kids and I recently concluded reading through C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Since I had stopped after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child myself, I enjoyed them every bit as much as my kids. I ate them up hungrily actually.

It’s been interesting to read about some of the controversies sparked by the series, and also C.S. Lewis’ own words regarding his work. Entire books have been written on the topic, and as is so often the case, it’s difficult to know exactly what to think or believe. I find it interesting that Lewis described the stories as coming to him – and there were a number of events in the final two books particularly that resonated with me powerfully. When I finished reading The Last Battle to my kids, I could barely speak for being so choked up. I felt that if all they ever understood about their futures came from that book, there would be enough hopeful certitude to last them their lifetimes.

One of these events was the reaction of Aslan to Emeth, a Calormene who had spent his life serving and seeking the god he had been raised to believe in – Tash. Emeth relates:

But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

Aslan continues:

Therefore if any man swears by Tash and keeps his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.

When Emeth persists, saying that he spent his entire life seeking Tash and therefore surely can’t be acceptable to Aslan, the Lion says:

Beloved, unless thy desire had been for me, thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.

And you wonder why the Chronicles were considered controversial!

The idea that this could be true – that humans can worship or serve any “god” and, if love is there, God counts it for him, is controversial indeed. But it’s also extraordinarily wonderful!! – a cause for unending celebration.

It’s also worth noting that this account takes place once Emeth has already passed “through the stable door.” His physical life has ended before he encounters Aslan.

I realise we can’t know for certain – C.S. Lewis was a mere mortal, if not inspired. But I can’t help feeling that what he described here is precisely as it should be. When,

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. (I Cor. 13:4-8) *

When God is all of those things.

Someone knocked on my door a few months ago and tried to tell me that God wished to be called by one name only (Jehovah), and was as angered at being called by a different – even similar – name as I would be at being called by the wrong name.

I disagree. I don’t believe that God cares what name we call him by. My child could call me by a name other than Mama (even an insulting one) and I’d remain his mama. She could forget she ever had a mother, and I’d remain the person who loved her from the moment I knew she was coming, who birthed her, and for whom rarely a minute passes without consciously thinking about her. And never one without loving her more than my own life. This is so without thought, intention, effort or taking credit on my part. It just is. Most parents would sooner stop breathing than stop loving their children. (Even with the final cessation of breath, I believe that this love goes on and remains.) This is all, also, as it should be. Every human knows it, however deep down.

We get it wrong when we look at our own characteristics and imagine God from there – but I do know that if there is anything good in people – and there is – it is just like moon reflecting the true light of the sun. But as the moon would be invisible, in pitch blackness, without the sun, so would we without the Son, Father and Spirit.

I look around me at people of all cultures and religions – and I see that moonlight in all of us. Not one of us is perfect or has it all figured out, but Love remains, no matter what creed, or lack thereof, under which we we live.

7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. 11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! (I John 4:7-11, The Message)

Love – it’s the only name that matters.

Jeannine Buntrock

* The Message translation reads I Corinthians 13 as follows:

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

I love it! 🙂

5 comments so far

  1. Thanks for this post, Jeannine – – That moment with Emeth is, for me, one of the most moving parts of the whole Narnia series, and that’s really saying something! I really do think that our focus on Trinity-Incarnation-Adoption demands this sort of deep re-thinking about how we relate to people of non-Christian faiths.

    You wrote: “if love is there, God counts it for him.” I think that, if we take the incarnation seriously, then of course love is there, because the incarnate Christ is there inside the humanity of every person on the planet. My Wiccan friends love their children, and I know exactly where that love came from.

    • iamjean9 on

      Thank you, John, my friend. Exactly how I see it too!

  2. Craig on

    Jeannine,

    Very nice, and well done, my dear.

    Words that should resonate well with those among our “former” denomination that left because we were once called a “cult” by the Christian community, yet God was always there forming us in the “midst” of what some saw as simply a “mess.”

    Keep on posting…you are truly gifted at it 🙂

    Craig

    • iamjean9 on

      So true – and thank you for your kind words, Craig!

  3. Phil Drysdale on

    Thanks so much for this Jeannine! Was a great read and reminded me of how much I love this series as well. The Last Battle is so crammed full of mind blowing thoughts and perspectives – it’s actually quite surprising how much the evangelical church love him haha


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