Anything that cools the flames of love, John Wesley said, that is what ‘the world’ is. The little phrase has stayed with me all week. For in our approach to passages like the following, we often treat the world as if we’ve mastered its deception, and in this posture we forget both the subtly of our seducer and the propensity to wander in our own hearts.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:15-17
Anything that cools love. Now that is a generous category. For many things can injure love. And I have immediate thoughts of that which can do great damage to its livelihood. But simply the cooling of its flames? That comes in a thousand ways. And the seemingly neutral activities – moments spent, thoughts given, words spoken – that might appear small when singled out, are found not as neutral but as powerful when compounded together in the common deed of cooling the sacred flame.
(The years have changed me, to be sure. Or rather, my Beloved God has brought forth change within. For even in approaching such a subject, I would have once deflated instantly with heavy weights of shame and even hopelessness. But not so today. I know Him far more than I once did and His heart now burns before me and within me not with the overtones of anger or disappointment but with the undergirdings of profuse Love and tenderness unspeakable. Warnings of that which cools love are not given to push me into the accusation corner but to grab hold of my inward affections and lunge me forward with divine zeal into the place where my soul pants for.)
All that cools, He pulls upon my deep-rooted longings to be fully His and rends me forward into the vision of a love untainted, fellowship unhindered and affections unquenched. It’s mine to know in fullness if I respond willingly and willfully to Him. A light shines upon the narrow path and provides more sight in my flight from the world and my pursuit of my God. I stand guard with holy zeal in the keeping of this flame. My guard is against not just the broad enemies that impair love, but the smallest intruders – the countless cooling agents – often too small to even catch my attention unless I watch so alertly.
In this enlightening of the path, He invites me to lay aside the popular sentiment that the way to know Him is too mysterious and lofty. Narrowness never meant mysteriousness, just singleness. He is not so far as we easily attribute Him to be. He remains the same, always, having laid before us the way to love Him and not burdening that path with any hidden entrapments. A narrow way is not a secret way, just specific.
This careful watching is not to me a begrudging task, but my delight. He has given me understanding that touches my ever-present yearning to be fully His and know Him in fullness. Every taste of Him is so enrapturing, I am left panting to see and know Him more. And so I guard with vigilance, this burning flame. Every ember, a flame that will remain, unless somehow quenched by the smoldering of worldly befriending. Until faith and hope at last give up their holy charge to escort me to His face, let this guard of love’s ardent flame continually and joyfully be mine.