Saturday, December 11, 2010

Love Neighbor 1

So the principle to "love neighbor" is also a Christian absolute of action.  There are no circumstances where God would have us act unloving toward our neighbor, where love is perhaps best understood in terms of the Golden Rule, aptly summarized in the Sermon on the Mount: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12, NRSV).  Love again is not about how you feel toward others but how you choose to act toward them both in your mind and action.  And the rules of psychology are such that if you get in the habit of loving choices, by God's power and through the accountability of others, the feelings will follow.

A disposition to love and show mercy does not in itself contradict acts of justice.  Such a disposition certainly requires acts of discipline.  Love is not absolute permission, nor does a society that fosters a sense of cheap grace or self-aggrandizement truly show love to its members.  While justice is not an absolute principle, it is the most loving way to structure a society, and exceptions to justice should be rare on the level of society as a whole, or else society would disintegrate.  Sometimes love must also choose between who to be loving toward.  Is it possible that love of one's own or love of the oppressed could force a nation to war or to self-defense?

Again, the Wesleyan tradition has historically been more optimistic than other Christian traditions about the extent to which God wants to empower a believer to be loving toward others.  It has gone so far as to suggest that believers can be so empowered that they might very well make loving choices toward others consistently, perhaps even without exception, for the remainder of their time on earth, and do it with joy.  In my opinion, it is counterproductive to spend much energy in introspection wondering whether or not we have fulfilled this expectation, as many in our tradition have done in the past.  The key point is that you can indeed do the loving thing the next time such a choice presents itself, and you should plan on it!


::athada:: said...

Can we really say, "There are no circumstances where God would have us act unloving toward our neighbor" (and similar absolute statements) and not be completely non-violent? Or would this mean that by participating in violence, one would have to confess one's sins afterwards - basically admitting that you can't restrain from violence, but it's sinful nonetheless.

If there are any absolutes in the Scripture, loving God and neighbor would be at the top of the list.

Ken Schenck said...

I am trying to argue that violence can be loving... or at least neutral as justice is.

JohnM said...

Who gets to determine whether an act is loving or not, the actor or the one on the receiving end?

Which counts more, intentions or results?

Ken Schenck said...

I'm focusing on intentions as what counts before God morally.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Love has to uphold justice, otherwise, it is not love. The minimun is the "written law" (The Constitution, The Ten Commandments)...Justice in our country is defined by "obeying the law", which limits another's intrusion upon the boundary of another. It is in real world terms, "property". One cannot act in greed, or passion without consequences. The "rule of law" protects order, individuality, and society itself because the "rule of law" protects equality before the law. Otherwise, we affirm slavery (one party having "no rights".)

How can one say that they love another when they presume upon another's boundary, by intruding, stealing, defrauding, pilliaging, presuming, etc.? Don't you think "rape" is wrong? Would a man be able to argue "intent", when he doesn't gain the woman's consent, because he didn't intend to harm her? He had thought she was giving off signals, that he 'mis-read". (After all, men and woman are "made to produce"). Many who have been burglarized talk about the "feeling" of being invaded, and their dignity attacked. Is their emotion not to be "defended" or "emotional damage" not rectified?

If someone is killed by another, "intent" is taken into account, whether it is first degree, second degree or manslaughter. The 'outcome" is the same, a dead person, but the guilty person is charged based on "intent". The is justice in regards to sentencing.

Justice is the minimum, while mercy/redemption is the "extended hand". Justice maintains order, while mercy maintains sanity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Another thought that I think is pertinant.
A man whose family (a wife and two daughters) was raped, tortured and murdered. He talked of not being able to sleep except for two hours a night for months and waking up with terror in his heart, hearing his daughter and wife being raped, their cries and screams. Ophrah Winfrey interviewd him and it was reported on the news, that he would not forgive this "evil". Why? Because he said that if he forgave something that was intentionally evil in this way, then, he would be agreeing to its "outcome". He thought his stance was against "evil", in principle.

Is he wrong? I don't think so, because of the emotional turmoil and damage that this evil caused him....It will take him a long time to "heal"....