All is fair in love and loyalty

Too often we mistake the effects of love and not its cause.

Logan Zeppieri, Opinions Editor

Some time ago, I was sitting by a fire listening to a friend give a sermon on the importance of value. One of his more peculiar qualities is the ability to speak about every other topic and travel along every other rabbit trail except the very point he set out to explain. It is similar to calling an ostrich or a penguin a bird. The thing that seems essential to a bird, flight, is the very thing they cannot do.

But by some miracle or coincidence, the very circumlocution of his thoughts were the only sort of way to speak about value. We can only capture it out of the corner of our eye, or obtain it the very moment we are no longer interested. It is like Alice in Wonderland who, after failing to catch up to the queen, turns away from the queen only to quickly catch the hem of the her dress. To add value we must not seek value, but seek love.

However, anyone who has sought love has managed to find that it can only be caught out of the corner of our eye. Just as we cannot add a smidge of value by seeking value, we cannot find love by seeking love. To find love, or to make something loveable, you must have already been loyal.


Humanity has a strange habit of seeing the world as it is, learning from it, then going out and doing exactly the opposite. When you ask a person their thoughts about love, you will often get a flurry of answers that range from feelings you have to sacrifices you ought to make, protests you ought to join to considerations for others you should entertain. It is all emotions and actions, but no description or demonstration.

G.K. Chesterton made this as clear as day by giving examples of love. A mother gives a bow to her daughter not because the daughter is ugly without it. A lover does not give a necklace to a woman to hide her neck. A soldier does not lay down his life so that his country is not great without it. It is to put the whole situation on its head. A mother gives a bow to her daughter, or a lover a necklace or a soldier his life because there is already love. What Chesterton points out so clearly is that it is a love akin to loyalty.


When we examine Scripture, we capture the same mistakes. We read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and instantly conjure images of loving others by seeking to address their medical needs. We think of the Great Commission, and instantly conjure images of going to the ends of the world and converting the lost. We think of the woman, caught in the act of adultery and Christ having mercy upon her. But in all of this we have failed to see what is love—we have mistaken the effect for the cause.

1 John 4:19 reads that we love because God first loved us. And we often conjure an image of Christ’s sacrifice. But that is only half the picture. God’s love begins in the first act of Creation, creatio ex nihilo. God’s first recorded act is creation through love. It is not until Christ that it is consummated in God’s passionate suffering. In both cases we had nothing to give, but everything to gain. No conditions, no stipulations, simply love. And that is the example we are given in Scripture and the example we are told to carry forward in life. To love without condition, to possess a sort of loyalty—to allows others no condition, no stipulation, simply love, so that they have nothing to give and everything to gain.

I spoke about my friend’s sermon because it illustrates this point so well. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is that something cannot be loveable unless it has first been loved. And when we consider the question of “value”—or even happiness and friendship or any other virtue under the sun—it is all reduced to the greatest of these—love. Can you love? Can you look at a piece of ore and think, “I want to love this metal and see where I can take it?” Can you look at a friend and say, “I’ll be there for you as God is here for me?” Can you love your neighbor akin to loyalty?

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