Smart people who can be unloving while supposedly loving people live in the false charity of lies. Truth can be misused, but remains irrepressibly true while love can degenerate into moral cowardice combined with a hug.
Love should grow in knowledge. Love demands knowledge of the beloved . . . as even the merely infatuated know. In the first blush of eroticism, a single date can contain more conversation and disclosures than mere acquaintances might share in a year.
Why knowledge? Knowledge provides insight into the nature of the beloved and so one can please the lover as he or she wishes to be pleased. I once gave Hope a very expensive size ten suit for Christmas and since she is a much, much smaller (petite) size, this went . . . badly. Not only did I lack knowledge, but I had no insight into her feelings. Hope shops for her own clothes, because she finds “deal finding” a pleasure in itself. I find shopping a painful experience and bless Amazon each year as the service wraps my gifts.
Knowledge would have led to insight. Insight does, however, allow me to learn from my experiences. I did not repeat the mistake of the suit again, because insight gave me the ability to learn from my experiences. My habit of giving her cards I made myself was a good one, until it was not. It began to look as if my planning ahead was inadequate to buying a card, so my strategy shifted: I modulated my behavior to the beloved based on experience.
How much truer this has been of less trivial behaviors! We live in a time where the most forgotten relationship is with God, the source of all love. Most believe in God’s existence, but think God has no personality. He is merely “there” to ground their being, answer prayers, and make us happy. Instead, God is as demanding as any Lover, though never with sin. He demands that His beloved grow ever more as the beloved was created to be. He will not tolerate our self-harm, even when we enjoy the pain.
God is jealous for us because He knows that His love is what we need to be truly happy and that our little idols, the false gods of our pleasures, will disappoint us. For this reason, God is willing to risk the relationship to demand our truest happiness and because He is omniscient, His demands are never wrong.
One of the greatest thinkers who ever lived, Paul, said:
And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer in knowledge and insight of every kind enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter.
We love God and so we will do theology. Never trust a man who says he loves God and wishes to know nothing about Him. Like a man who “loves” a woman and only wishes for experience without knowledge, this selfish brute is in love with his own idea of the Beloved and the pleasures he thinks he can gain without loving the Person.
Paul knew better. He loved God and God refused to allow him short term happiness. His love of God had led him to prison and suffering, but also to joy. People let Paul down, but God never did, even when He seemed to do so. Love of God led to knowledge, then insight, then learning by experience what really mattered. Only then could Paul find joy as the repeated command to his own heart.