Johannes Eckhardt

There was sopmething written in the late middle ages done by “Meister” Eckhardt –Johannes Eckhardt– being his given name:

There are three ways to love, two are dangerous. One of the dangerous ones is a danger to the giver, the other a danger to the recipient. Interested love is when you love so dearly you fall into the same condition as the recipient and it drags you down and the recipient’s need is your need and a dependency upon each other is created.
The other is uninterested love where help is given but there is no regard for the person to whom help is given. But then there is dis-interested love. This is different from no interest in that there is a “distance” or “space” in the love that is given, you are giving the other person his space thus regarding him or her as an individual with respect in the giving. This is protection from dependency on the recipient’s part and protection from co-dependency on the giver. Nouwen,– I have forgotten the title — wrote about giving people “space.” When you close all space, you shut off any giving or receiving; you are smothering each other. But when you have too much space, you remain strangers to each other. He related the Old Testament of hospitality where the stranger is welcomed but is also granted his freedom to leave as he sees fit. You don’t tell him, “Why don’t you spend the night with us?” That would be infringing upon his freedom to leave when he feels he needs to be on his way in order to reach his desired destination. This is carried over in the Near East today. It also relates to the whole issue of space in human relationships. Space is important. You can tell the kind of relationships people by watching the “space” they give each other. Those in love are close to each other. Two business people keep a distance between themselves as they work out a contract or transaction between themselves. Similarly, space has to be observed on the mission field. This creates a type of vulnerability but yet is very workable. You do not give with strings attached to it. This makes the recipient beholden to you. That is not good at all as it disrespects the person who receives as though he or she is incapable of knowing how best to use what is given. You are interested in the well being of the recipient without closing space or becoming too interested in his or hers affairs of life. You do not work out their life for them on your terms.
We, who are Christians, tend to be so tender-hearted that we do think out what we are doing when we give. We love but do not know how best to communicate the love that respects the person of the recipients and gives the space necessary for growth and maturity in Christ. In the words of a song popular in America during the World War II era, “Don’t Fence Me In!”

For more information contact Woodrow Walton at wwalt2@pldi.net