The Eyes of Love
First broadcast April 21, 1991
[Transcribed from tape and edited for clarity.]
I am going to talk about love. That is an easy thing to talk about. Love is not something that just happens. In dealing with young people, very often they tell me that love occurs when the chemistry is right, when the sparks fly. I grew up on that. "Some enchanted evening you will meet a stranger across a crowded room and somehow you'll know....."
As a matter of fact, most mothers in America are asked, "Mom, how will I know when I'm in love? How will I know when I have met the right one?"
Almost every mother in America will look back and say, "When you meet the right one, you will know!"
That really helps, doesn't it? It clarifies everything! Of course, it is not as simple as that. The Bible makes it clear that love is something that has to be created deliberately. Both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible make that point. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; Husbands love your wives; Love one another; Love your enemies."
This is not something that an individual does instinctively. It is something that comes through deep commitment and a lot of hard work. Love is something you have to do. It is something you have to will. It is something you have to decide to do.
Two of the main books in the twentieth century on love, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm and M. Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled, both make that point loud and clear. Love is something you have to decide to do.
At Eastern College where I teach, I always tell my students that getting married is no assurance it is going to be a good thing. The truth is that every wedding creates the possibility for a marriage. Weddings do not create marriages, only the possibility for marriages. Marriages are things that are created when people decide to love one another.
Now you ask, "What has to be decided?" I think the first thing that has to be decided is this. You have to decide to give up power. Most of us are accustomed to power relationships. People wear power ties, these red ties, because in personal relationships they want to dominate; they want to control; they want to influence and determine what other people are thinking and doing.
It has been discerned that there is an inverse relationship between love and power. The more you love somebody, the less power you are able to exercise in the relationship. The more you love, the less power you have in any relationship and that goes for a marriage. Here is a husband and wife. She loves him desperately. He does not love her much at all. Who is in the position of control? Who can call the shots? Who is in a position of power?
The answer is obvious. He is in a position of power because he doesn't care. Whoever cares the most has the least power. Love, therefore, requires giving up power.
That is the whole story of Jesus coming into the world. Two thousand years ago the all-powerful God emptied himself of power and became vulnerable. He became a baby in a manger and eventually died on a cross, because He wanted to change the world with love. You have got to decide to give up power.
Second, you must make a decision to look at people in a different way. In Chapter 13 of I Corinthians, the great love chapter, it says there are two ways in which we can look at each other. We can look at each other as through a glass darkly, or we can come together face to face.
Let me put it this way. There is a difference between looking at a person and looking into a person. There is all the difference in the world between looking at a person's face and looking at a person's eyes, and looking through a person's eyes and reaching down deep inside and touching something sacred in the depths of their being.
The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, said it well. He said, "There are two kinds of relationships. There is the I-It relationship and the I-Thou relationship."
I can look at a person as an "it," as a thing, as an object; or I can enter into the person and touch something sacred in that person's being and that person is encountered as a sacred "thou."
In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says that the eyes are entrances to the person's being. If a person closes off his eyes or if you close off your eyes to that person, then there is darkness. The only question that Jesus asks is, "How dark is that darkness?" It's fascinating that Jesus should say that the eyes are so significant, that through the eyes we enter into a person and touch something sacred at the depths of that person's being.
When was the last time you looked into someone's eyes? I didn't say looked at the eyes, but looked into the eyes. Husbands, wives, when was the last time you looked into your partner? I didn't say at your partner, but into your partner, reaching through the eyes down into the depths of the being to touch that which is sacred and eternal, waiting to be encountered in every human being.
One day I was walking on the grounds of the University of Pennsylvania where I was then a faculty member. I came to a street corner. Coming up along side of me was a woman who was commonly known around the University as "The Duck Lady." She was called the Duck Lady because she just walked around quacking all the time -- quack, quack, quack, quack -- that was all she ever said. She was a dirty, filthy quack lady. It was an incredible thing to see her constantly on the streets around the University.
There she was next to me quacking away. The light was red. We were waiting for it to change and I turned to her. She turned to me and in one of those rare moments our eyes met. I did exactly what I am talking about. I didn't look at her. I looked through her eyes and reached down into the depths of her being and I touched something. I didn't know what to say. I just said, "It's a lovely day."
The light changed. The people shoved and she picked up her quacking again and walked on her way quacking down the street. But for a moment, for a split moment, she was delivered from her insanity. She was rescued from her weirdness. For a moment, she was redeemed into wholeness of being.
Love does that. When we love one another, I mean not look at one another but look into one another, there is a redemptive event that occurs.
So often people say to me the thing that is wrong with parents is they don't communicate with their children. Well, that is true. We mistakenly believe that we are communicating with our children if we talk at them. There are so many parents who talk at their children. What we need is not so much parents who talk at their children. We need parents who know how to look into their children's eyes and reach down to the depths of their being and love them there.
When was the last time you entered into your child's soul? When was the last time you entered into your husband's soul?
Lao-tse, founder of the Taoist religion, once said this, "Do you love your wife?" The man he said it to responded, "Of course, I do." Lao-tse said, "Describe her."
The man described her in detail. When the description was finished, Lao-tse said, "You don't love her. If you loved her, you could not have described her."
Of course, you understand what he was talking about. When you enter into somebody's being and touch their souls, what you discover there is so much more precious, wonderful, and beautiful than what you see on the surface, that what you see on the surface does not even become worth mentioning when you talk about that individual.
In Marjorie Williams's delightful little children's story, The Velveteen Rabbit, there is a talk between a toy rabbit and toy horse. It goes like this. "What is real?" asked the rabbit of skin horse just before Nana came in to tidy up the room.
"Does real mean having things that buzz inside of you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the skin horse. "It is a thing that happens to you when a child loves you, not just to play with, but really loves you. Then you become real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the skin horse for he was always truthful. "When you are real you don't mind being hurt, that is why it doesn't happen to those who break easily or have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real most of your hair has been loved off. Your eyes drop out; you get loose in the joints; you look very shabby. These things don't matter at all because once you are real, you can never be ugly except to people who don't understand."
That is so important, especially in a sexist age where women are often appreciated simply in terms of how we look at them. No wonder the feminists yell back at us and say, "We don't want you to look at us. We want to be sacred human beings, holy creatures. We want you to enter into us and touch what is essential in our being."
Jesus is here. He is here with me and He is there with you. Jesus is one who as a living resurrected presence wants to look into your being, touch your soul and love you. If you will let Him, you can have that kind of relationship with God. God is a person who wants to enter in and touch the sacred "thou" in your being. He wants to do it for a very important reason. Once you have been touched by God, you are ready to carry that experience into all relationships of life and touch other people.
I have a simple plea for you today and that is to love, not just get those warm, fuzzy feelings. Make a decision to concentrate and care and to look through people's eyes into their souls and touch what is holy, touch what is sacred. Every human being has something sacred and holy waiting to be touched if only you will make the effort. The good news is that when you love, you yourself will feel loved. God is love and whoever loves is born of God.
Conversation with Tony Campolo
Floyd Brown: Tony, you travel the nation a great deal. You are involved in education. It is one of your great loves. You spoke on the topic of love. I would like for you to make an analogy of the love of the sixties when we had the love children around. Did they abuse the word love so much that it lost its meaning for us? Compare that with today.
Tony Campolo: In many respects, I think the sixties was a time when we struggled with what love meant. The hippies at the one end, made love into some kind of sexual orgy, almost irresponsible and indiscriminate physical affection. Obviously, that is not love.
The political activists looked at love on the societal level. They said that love is justice and they worked for that.
I think there is something to be learned from the past. If you don't learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it. I think there is a need for affection. I think that Leo Buscaglia says it well when he says that we ought to go around hugging each other more. That doesn't mean that we have to be sexually indiscriminate. Certainly, there cannot be love without justice. In our day and age, it is impossible to say that we love you and not will justice for you in the larger social scene. We have something to learn from the sixties. They had good things to teach us, even though they were extreme at times.
Brown: It had some meaning that came out of it. You do a lot of touring. You see a lot of young people. What is the mood of the nation today? Where are the young people?
Campolo: I have just finished a book that will be published in the near future. It talks about middle-range. I think that contrary to the past, students are looking for an opportunity to do something to change society on what we call the "middle-range" level. They are not interested in changing Congress so much or changing the Presidency so much. They are interested in building houses for the poor. They are interested in direct community action where they can be involved, where they can make a difference, where they can have an impact on other people's lives.
I head up an organization in Philadelphia that every summer brings together 250 university students who do nothing else but serve the poor. They get no pay for it, but they are making a difference. That is what is unique about our age, people wanting to make a difference on a face-to-face level.
Brown: I have worked with Sunday school groups in the past. Not only is it a kind of love, but they go home feeling like they have done something.
Campolo: We have to have that, don't we? We have to do something that leaves us with a sense that we have left our mark, that we have made a difference, that we have impacted other people's lives. Kids from all over the country come and work with us as an expression of a new form of activism, not tearing down the system but creating something right in the neighborhood where they work and live, loving people in the name of God.
Brown: You always leave something with us, too. Tony, thank you so much.