We are looking at Mark Tietjen’s excellent book, Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians (IVP Academic, 2016), and we’ve come to his last chapter (not to be confused with the conclusion); which is entitled, “The Life of Christian Love.” But love is a big topic; and so, before we venture into all that Tietjen wants to say about Kierkegaard’s view of love, I thought it might be good to provide two primers (this week and next week) that will (hopefully) whet our appetite for this subject. We begin today with ten quotes from Kierkegaard on love for us to ponder. Is this too simple? Perhaps. Is it effective? I hope so! Plus, you will thank me next Valentine’s Day when you are looking for a great quote to put in your card.
In any case, here are twelve great Kierkegaard quotes on what it means to love and be loved.
- “Love does not alter the beloved; it alters itself.”
- “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world–no matter how imperfect–becomes rich and beautiful; it consists solely of opportunities for love.”
- “Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see.”
- “Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”
- “Men think that it is impossible for a human being to love his enemies, for enemies are hardly able to endure the sight of one another. Well, then, shut your eyes–and your enemy looks just like your neighbor.”
- “The commandment is that you shall love, but when you understand life and yourself, then it is as if you should not need to be commanded, because to love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without this life, you really do not live.”
- “Christianity certainly knows far better than any poet what love is and what it means to love. For this very reason it also knows what perhaps escapes the poets, that the love they celebrate is secretly self-love, and that it is precisely by this its intoxicated expression–to love another person more than oneself–can be explained.”
- “But to love oneself in the divine sense is to love God, and truly to love another person is to help that person to love God.”
- “This is all that I’ve known for certain, that God is love. Even if I have been mistaken on this or that point, God is nevertheless love.”
- “The measure of a person’s disposition is this: how far is he from what he understands to what he does, how great is the distance between his understanding and his actions.”
- “Worldly wisdom is of the opinion that love is a relationship between persons; Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between: a person–God–a person, that is, God is always the middle term.”
- “With respect to love, we speak continually about perfection and the perfect person. With respect to love, Christianity also speaks continually about perfection and the perfect person. Alas, but we men talk about finding the perfect person in order to love him. Christianity speaks about being the perfect person who limitlessly loves the person he sees.
En Garde with Kierkegaard
All of that leads us to this quote and a question:
“The ordinary kind of Christianity is: a secularized life, avoiding major crimes more out of sagacity than for the sake of conscience, ingeniously seeking the pleasures of life–and then once in a while a so-called pious mood. This is Christianity–in the same sense as a touch of nausea and a little stomachache are cholera.”
And the question: Is our love true Christian love or do we just have a touch of nausea?
Another primer next week!