The Love Train

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.

The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.                ~ C.S. Lewis

On the surface, it seems like such a small, subtle shift in focus. Semantics really. The virtue of love and the virtue of unselfishness. Doesn’t it all still boil down to love? I think it does. It’s all about love. The question is who’s the recipient?

When I substitute a negative term for a positive virtue, I’ve jumped tracks. It becomes all about me. I begin to act as if I’m called to take up my cross like a martyr rather than to acknowledge that God, in His grace, is already carrying all the weight. It’s the love train, either direction.The question is, which track am I taking?

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

8 thoughts on “The Love Train”

  1. C.S. Lewis is such a master of the English language that I tread with some trepidation when I use his thoughts for a spring board. Thanks for being such an encouragement, Jeff. ~ Debbie

  2. Breakfast with Two Minutes of Grace — what a way to start the day! Love the distinction between unselfishness being all about me and love being all about someone else. Definitely going to be letting that thought soak in deep today. Blessings, Debbie!

  3. Gosh, thanks sharinhislove! I think often, when most of us read things that click with us, we think, yep, that’s true… and then move back into our regular realm of comfort. You always seem to make a personal application and really seek to change because of it. I can’t tell you how much I admire that! ~Debbie

  4. Great message. You made me examine my own motives. Sometimes they get mixed up. I think that happens to many of us. I will use your message to question myself each day, to make sure I’m on the right track. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great point. It is so easy to let selfishness, or “the flesh”, predominate in spirituality. The ego is always there seeking to enhance itself. We must, as T.S. Eliot noted, “Purify the motive in the ground of our beseeching.”

    1. I’m with you Literary Lew – at some point, early in life, I assigned great virtue to martyrdom which is the epitome of the ego enhancing itself. That’s why I spent all my early years as a Mom, only eating chicken wings! 😉

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