Reconsidering “Love Story” and Protestant Condemnation
In 1970 the movie “love Story” starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw was a huge box office hit. The movie’s catchphrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”…”proved memorable, and has been repeated in various contexts [culturally] since. “The line has also been criticized or mocked, for suggesting that apologies are unnecessary in a loving relationship.”
Culturally, media presentations have also mocked the catchphrase by replacing “love” with other subjects: “On Weeds, Nancy Botwin, after the death of her drug dealer mentor, U-Turn, explains to the tattoo artist her reason for getting a U-Turn traffic sign tattoo is that ‘It just reminds me that Thug means never having to say you’re sorry.’ When asked by the tattoo artist if she doesn’t mean ‘love’, Nancy replies, ‘Absolutely not. Love means you’re constantly apologizing.’”
After pondering all of the aforementioned, I would like to make my own catchphrase: “Law means you never say you’re sorry enough.” One of the many things I do not miss about being a Protestant in the Southern Baptist church is the condemnation. If Protestantism keeps its participants under law, and it does, one should expect to see a lot of condemnation going on, and you do.
During my stint as a Baptist, there were several bazaar incidents that I never understood until now leading me to conclude that while I would not make the Love Story catchphrase a life theme to live by, I must say that it is much closer to the truth than “Law means you never say you’re sorry enough.”
A paramount example follows. As a young zealous Baptist fellow I took over a very large AWANA children’s program that was falling apart at the seams. The first year was a smashing success after I sunk my heart and soul into the program. The concluding program and awards ceremony at the end of the year on a Sunday night went particularly well which led me to deep thankfulness and joy…for about an hour after the closing program.
The first sign of a storm cloud came when I was informed that one of the children inadvertently was not put on the awards list. Let me make a very long story short: that misstep defined the whole year and everything that had been accomplished. Even though the mistake was made by the AWANA secretary, I was informed that some elements of any endeavor are so important that a misstep on that one element rightfully defines success or failure in regard to the whole. Hence, all of the loving effort poured into the program by me was for not. Furthermore, I couldn’t ask for forgiveness enough; it became apparent that the controversy was not going away until justice was fully satisfied. Basically, it ended when everyone felt like a sufficient poundage of flesh had been extracted.
What is all of this? It’s what you experience when you are under law and not under love. And folks, you can apply this example to every venue and strata of life…especially marriage. Love isn’t defined by the big picture and the assumed motives of people; love is defined by not doing something wrong. It isn’t thankful and insightful regarding the other person’s whole life, it is a constant state of truce until the other person makes a mistake. Then, the truce doesn’t resume until the suitable punishment fits the crime.
If you have ever been a pastor, and I have, and been to a lot of pastor’s conferences, and I have, you know that successful pastors are defined by the ability to “keep the peace” in their congregations; viz, the political ability to maintain a truce.
What is this whether a marriage or church congregation? It’s under law. Regardless of your motives and best efforts, you are defined, at least temporarily, by your most recent mistake. Yes my dear friend, you have fallen short of the “righteous demands of the law.” Be sure of this: all pettiness that goes on in the institutional church flows from its progressive justification gospel that keeps congregants under law…2+2=4.
Love is patient because it “dwells” on the big picture and all of the reasons you love that person. Love isn’t defined by not doing bad stuff; it’s defined by the big picture motives of any given person and our vision for what we want them to be. Law defines the person by the momentary weakness and the truce is canceled until sufficient justice has been executed. That is otherwise known as “condemnation.” Condemnation keeps a record of wrong and not love. Love dwells on what is honorable and does not keep a record of wrong. Love keeps a record of love. Love defines a person in regard to what they do by faith, not what they do when their faith is weak. Love doesn’t seek restitution, it seeks restoration.
Invariably someone will say, “That attitude is just going to promote unrestrained wickedness!” See what the assumption is? The goal isn’t true love, the goal is a love defined by not doing bad stuff. The person isn’t perceived for their love, they are defined in regard to whether or not they did something bad today.
You can tell when you are around people with an under law mentality or a straight up under law that flows from their Protestant progressive justification gospel. Someone’s moment of weakness becomes the big picture. Some isolated incident isn’t seen as a residual annoyance, it’s seen as Armageddon. And, invariably, they just won’t let it go. No reasonable explanation, apology, or even slashing of the wrists will end the affair until they feel that the law has been fulfilled by your suffering.
In love, we will have to apologize from time to time; however, I would have no problem with a love that doesn’t deem it necessary and assumes no ill motives were intended. But when you are dealing with someone with an under law mentality…
…”Law means never saying you’re sorry enough”…until the law is once again fulfilled by someone other than Christ.