GC: Love vs. ego hunger.

[This post is my notes and thoughts on Tim & Kathy Keller’s pre-conference talk at The Gospel Coalition 6.22.12]

It’s neat to hear TK talk about marriage.  He’s been pretty influential on what I look for in a guy.

He talks about his marriage as if he’s more in love with Kathy today than he ever has been, but he doesn’t necessarily feel the same ‘butterflyey’ feelings he did in the beginning.  He doesn’t receive the same rush when he holds Kathy’s hand today as he did when they first held hands all those years ago.

The ‘butterfly’ sensation has faded, but TK thinks that is a result of his love growing, not diminishing.   He doesn’t think those ‘butterflies’ are an indicator of love.  In his case, he says “the initial thrill was…the flattery of her love for me.

Convicting. Do we confuse ‘the flattery of someone’s love for us’ with love itself?  Has our culture confused ‘love’ and ‘ego hunger’?

On earth this desire is often called “love”. In Hell I feign that they recognize it as hunger.  – C.S. Lewis

Clive is right.  Love and ego hunger are confusing for us.  The desire to be loved feels too similar to love itself.

How can we be sure that when we say ‘I love you’ we don’t mean ‘I love that you love me’? How can we be sure that what we call ‘love’ isn’t just the thrill of the flattery that comes from being wanted?

Or on the flip side, maybe you’re like me and you experience the most ‘love’ when someone is walking away.  In panic I say ‘I love you‘  when what I really mean is:  ‘I need you to love me!’ How can we be sure that what we call ‘love’ isn’t just the desperate plea for someone to love us?

I don’t want to confuse love and ego hunger and not just because it will destroy my ability to love the people God has put in my life.

I don’t want to confuse ego hunger with love because there is a tragic and terrifying danger in this tendency: what if I do that with God?

In Religious Affections, Edwards quotes this:

“There are such things in [our faith] which, when a carnal, unhallowed mind takes the chair and gets the expounding of them, may seem very delicious to the fleshy appetites of men.”

God’s love for us is thrilling.  There are so many glorious truths in the Gospel about how deeply and passionately God has pursued us.  However, love for God means that those things delight our souls – not because of what they say about us, but because of what they say about Him.

It would be hard to tell the difference between love for God and mere ego hunger.

  • Do we love worship songs that are about God’s love for us, but have a hard time connecting when He’s the main character and we’re not mentioned?
  • Do we love the Bible verses that talk about how much God is willing to pay for us, but do we become uncomfortable or bored that focus on other elements of God’s character that don’t benefit us so much?
  • Do we love the Gospel because we get God?  or do we love the Gospel because it makes us feel special and loved?

Don’t get me wrong: we are special to God and we are fiercely loved by God.

But there is nothing in God’s love that should flatter us.

His love says nothing about us and everything about Him.  There is nothing communicated in the great Gospel about how great we are, but rather – everything communicated about a God who would spend such a price on a people who have ‘together, become worthless’.

And the good news is that – while the flattery of ego brings with it some tingles of pleasure that last a few moments – deep and real love brings with it abiding joy.

If we love the Gospel because it flatters our egos we will find nothing but death and destruction, but real love for God will bring pleasures forevermore.

May we decrease and He increase.

One thought on “GC: Love vs. ego hunger.

  1. Truly may I decrease, and may He increase. I am reading this post for the second time. I need to print it out and chew some more. May God help us to discern, and come to a point of knowing His love for His love’s sake. May he help His bride to recognize that self flattery is a counterfeit wherever it manifests itself. In our worship and relationships especially.

    May God continue to bless you. And increase in you. I thank God for this blog

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