Monday, November 3, 2014

Loving People and Outliving Hatred

Jesus believed in life. He believed in the power of Divine Love. To the twelve men who became the original disciples of Jesus, he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NASV, italic added for emphasis).

Elsewhere, Jesus taught that life could be fully lived by compressing it into two all-encompassing rules:
     1) love God supremely; and
     2) love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:38-40).
In exercising this love, Jesus concluded, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). And the reverse of that is 25:45: “to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

While reading today, it occurred to me that for me to love all men inclusively, and that seems to be what Jesus calls for, is to accept pacifism and war against no man. What else is pacifism, but intentionally refusing to fight with our neighbor? In our humanity, we want to pick and choose the issues we support and the people we love. We love selectively! We love the life of the unborn fetus but we have no such scruple against a terrorist, whom we demonize as our enemy, and with whom we go to war.

Did not Jesus say, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? Instead of that, Jesus said, go the second mile, instead of just loving your neighbor, love your enemy and pray for those who abuse you (cf Matthew 5:38-47).

While Christians struggle with such a teaching as Jesus gave us, it seems that it took someone like Ghandi to look at the issue squarely. It was Ghandi who declared, “Mine is not an exclusive love. I cannot love Moslems or Hindus and hate Englishmen. For if I love merely Hindus and Moslems because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, which they may well do any moment. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair” Armstrong/(Field of Blood/Knopf, NY 2014/305, emphasis added).

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them,” suggested George Bernard Shaw, “but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.” That indifference is the one thing that the love of Jesus will not allow us to do. We dare not remain indifferent; thus, Eleanor Roosevelt was quite right when she said, “Life was meant to be lived … One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

I’m not suggesting Mrs. Roosevelt was thinking of Jesus when she made her comment about life, but I cannot think of anyone else for whom those words take on more real meaning than Jesus. If anyone understood what it means to live life to the full, I believe it was Jesus. And realizing the wisdom of those words, he refused to turn his back on life when he had numerous reasons for doing so. Gospel wisdom suggests that Jesus went to the cross because he had not outlived his love for a humanity that he wanted to live to the fullest.

I believe it is important to live life to its fullest, and who other than Jesus could William Croswell Doane have been referring to when he concluded, “He had lived out his life but not outlived his love.” Jesus lived out his life in loving service, then surrendered his life on that Roman cross because he had not yet outlived his love.

From Warner’s World,
I am,

asking that the Christ empower us to love all people, everywhere, and be indifferent to no person, anywhere

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