If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with

Or the strange fascination God’s people have with the world they’re in.

Stephen Stills was a great songwriter, and there’s no doubt ‘Love the one you’re with’ is a catchy song, which accounts for the fact that it’s been covered by gazillions of artists since Stills released it in the early 1970s.

But for me I find the amoral nature of the lyric fairly nauseating:

And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Turn your heartache right into joy
She’s a girl, you’re a boy,
Get it together make it nice
Ain’t gonna need anymore advice.

It’s just more of that crappy hedonism that was and is preached by the kings of cool and which has proven to be oh so great for all of us.

But my problem with this notion goes further than a bit of a grumble about a pop song, after all many of my favourite tunes have morally ambiguous lyrics if I’m honest.

My real gripe is that this very sentiment is being played out each day by people who claim to follow Jesus, and from time to time, more often perhaps than I’d like to admit, by me too.

Somehow because of the nature of God, being all invisible and difficult to focus upon, and the very hyper-reality of the world we live in, we choose to forsake the apparently absent one we (say we) love, and instead have an affair, or at least a fling, with the one we’re with.

Perhaps it’s as Stills says:

…you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slip away…

…There’s a girl right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something you do.

There’s a real need for us to remember who we are talking to, to remind ourselves of the reality of our situation. Not to be so distracted by our surroundings that we forsake the one we love, for the one we’re with.

How can that be done? There’s a real question of discipline here, which again I’ll be the first to say I have not got a good enough hold of. But perhaps there was a good reason that the Jews and the early Christians chose to pray seven times a day, perhaps the Muslims have a point in their ritual daily observances!

Perhaps we have lost something by rejecting the Sabbath and letting the ways of the world in to our day of rest and ritual observance. Perhaps our choice to forsake the telling and retelling of stories of God and his people in preference to weak sermons and flashy multimedia presentations has had unforeseen consequences.

Perhaps we’ve mucked up by abandoning fasting as a regular part of our life, and allowing our every desire to be sated in a whirlwind of consumer culture. Maybe our unwillingness to take on the challenge of meditation in a world where information flies around at the speed of light is a bigger loss than we thought, as it has the potential to connect us to the unknown and unseen and remove us from the realm of the immediate.

Maybe the monastics really do have something to teach us in all this… I guess you know I think they do.

I suppose this is a mournful call for a return to spiritual discipline, in the knowledge that we walk only by grace any how, but in the sincere hope that with a renewed focus on the reality of the closeness of God, comes a greater faithfulness to him.


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