At church this morning, the pastor preached a love sermon: a sermon about how we should love other people. That’s not my favorite kind of message, but I should expect it! That sort of message is a salient part of the Christian tradition!
The pastor said that we cannot love God in the Christian sense if we
have anything against someone else. He also read something that
paraphrased Matthew 5:23-24, while combining it with I Corinthians 13:
if someone has something against you, and you don’t have enough love for
that person to go to him or her and be reconciled, then (such-and-such,
I forget what) is worthless.
So I can’t have anything against somebody else? And I have to make
sure that nobody else has anything against me? Is that even possible?
Do Christians—-even those who think that we should live this
way—-actually do this? “How about you focus on whether you are obeying
the requirement, James, rather than on if others are obeying it?”
Because, if the requirement is so freaking unrealistic that NOBODY is
doing it, why should I beat up on myself for not doing it?
I was thinking of I Corinthians 13. Are knowledge and giving to the
poor really worthless without love? On knowledge, even if I am not the
most loving person in the world, knowledge benefits me—-it satisfies my
curiosity, it entertains me, it feeds me, etc. Maybe it can benefit
others, too, but it is not utterly worthless if it does not. On giving
to the poor, I am sure that the poor person would appreciate me giving
to him or her, even if I have a hard time loving people.
In churches, I have continually heard that I am supposed to “love
everybody.” Is that even realistic? Is it possible? I remember
hearing a Jewish person say that love for everybody is not
possible—-that we do not have that capacity—-but that the closest that
he gets to universal love is to hope that someone else (in this case,
alcoholics) does not lose his or her sobriety. Okay, I guess that is
not universal love, but love for fellow alcoholics, but I get the man’s
point. When I first heard him say that, I thought, “Well, you can say
that, because you are not a Christian and thus you do not have the Holy
Spirit helping you out.” But, seeing how I and other Christians act, I
wonder if Christians actually do have some edge that non-Christians
Then there is the whole deal about how we are supposed to love the
difficult. How? Suppose one has a Christian blog, and an atheist troll
keeps being a jerk on it, leaving comments that abuse the author and
other commenters. Seriously, is the Christian blogger obligated to
allow that? Of course, this can be switched: suppose a fundamentalist
commenter gets abusive on an atheist blog. But my focus here is on
Christians who feel they have to abide by some Christian ethic to love
everybody, even the unlovable.
Feel free to comment, but let me make two points clear: (1.) I will
not publish any comments that disparage me or call into question my
Christianity. Oh, that’s not very loving? Deal with it. Find someone
else to judge. (2.) I would rather not read comments that tell me I am
being hard on myself, or that I really do love people. This post is not
about me being hard on myself. If you comment, talk about the topic of
unconditional love—-whether, and to what extent, you put that into
practice, or how you understand it as a Christian, if you consider
yourself a Christian.