You Won't Have to Try to Love

Reading Time: 4 mins

Heaven is yours now.

C.S. Lewis took a stab at describing what it might be like to be a saint in Heaven in his interesting though unusual work, The Great Divorce. As a man from hell tours Purgatory, or something like it, he sees a beautiful woman, a saint, together with her children, those whom she had loved through faith in this life. Her name was Sarah Smith, the man is told. But then a dwarf appears with a great tall ghost, a lost soul, “horrible thin and shaky” (pg. 120). This is Frank. The dwarf holds a chain connected to a collar around the ghost’s neck. The dwarf is Frank’s internal insecurity, which leads him to try to guilt people into loving him. The tall ghost is the image Frank projected of himself in his earthly life. Frank had loved Sarah. And had Sarah loved Frank, she tells him, although she admits her love was imperfect on earth. Frank, however, wants to love Sarah as his own. And he wants her to love him exclusively. He tries to play on her emotions and manipulate her now as he’d tried in the previous life.

The scene goes on for a while. Sarah tries to draw Frank out of himself so he, too, can truly love and accept love freely, securely, and unselfishly, but she fails. Frank clings to himself and selfish love, which is no love at all. Sarah simply cannot love like he wants. She doesn’t control her love. She doesn’t have to try to love. She just loves. She loves, as she says, because “I am in love” (125). Love has broken down all boundaries between herself and others, between all in Heaven. She can’t love him any differently than she loves anyone else. 

That God should forget our sins when we struggle to do so is an amazing thing, almost unbelievable, and yet faith hangs on this truth. 

In Heaven, you won’t have to try to love. Imagine that. Here we want to love, but loving is hard in a fallen world. It makes us vulnerable. It can lead to suffering. It often means dragging the old person along. It’s not easy. There we’ll get to love and it will come entirely naturally. 

God will forget your sins. Imagine that. Here, we know our sins all too well. We lament them, confess them, and are troubled by them. That God should forget them when we struggle to do so is an amazing thing, almost unbelievable, and yet faith hangs on this truth. 

Jeremiah was called to spend much of his time telling people what they deserve. Now he tells them what they get in Christ, which is the opposite of what they deserve. He describes the fruits of the person and work of Christ for us, but fruits we’ll only enjoy in their full sweetness in glory, a glory brought to us through suffering, a glory to which we are brought through suffering. 

Jeremiah was called to a difficult ministry. He wasn’t the bearer of good news often. The Book of Lamentations is the product of Jeremiah’s preaching. Lamentations, if you’re wondering, isn’t one of the Bible’s most uplifting books. Jeremiah wasn’t always a downer, though. There was hope. God wouldn’t forget his people forever. And so we get chapters like Jeremiah 31. We get told there will come a day when we won’t have to try to love, when God will forget our sins, and we will, too. 

In Heaven, we won’t have to try to love because we will be in love.

Imagine it. Love will be like a reflex, like what you do with your leg when the doctor hits your knee with that little rubber mallet. Your sins will be gone. If you told God about them, he wouldn’t have the faintest idea what you are talking about. And this will all be because you know the Lord, just as he knows you. His word will be within you, his covenant unbreakable, his love unconditional. 

In Heaven, we won’t have to try to love because we will be in love. We will be free, free even from ourselves. We will know God, and we will be known, and he will know only who we are in him, and we will know ourselves and others only as we and they are in him. What we have begun to experience here through faith, we will then fully possess. 

As I’ve said, we don’t get that perfectly now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get it at all. We get a poor imitation, but it’s better than nothing, and it’s the best part of this life. You still remember your sins here, but God doesn’t. You must try to love here, but God doesn’t. He loves you the same way here that he will there. And love breeds love, so he lets us experience the joy of loving, too, even if imperfectly. 

Lewis explains through one of the characters in The Great Divorce that at the end, “the Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly” (69). Heaven is yours now. You get glimpses of it whenever you hear the word of forgiveness, whenever you get lost in your neighbor because in your neighbor you see Christ, whenever you remember your Baptism, which gave you everything you will enjoy on the other side of the grave. 

Jeremiah had a pretty hard ministry. He had to speak plenty of hard words and work through plenty of hardship. We know that world, too. We have our lamentations. We have our Lents before Easter. And yet the good news is there, always there, just as it was with Jeremiah, even if sometimes it seems muted. 

Just imagine it. You won’t have to try to love anymore. God will forget your sins. Look forward to that day and start enjoying it now because it’s already yours, and he already has no idea what you’re talking about when you make your confessions. But such confessions are good for you because of the absolutions they bring, which taste like Heaven, like reflexive love, because that’s what forgiveness is.