Interested and Disinterested Love, and Merit

I was thinking recently about selfish people.  I cannot say that I know anybody who is completely selfish.  Nor can I say that I myself am completely selfish.  There are people whom the self-righteous might label as selfish, for there are plenty of evangelical Christians and “spiritual” people out there who like to compete to show how unselfish they supposedly are, and they enjoy sitting in judgment of others.  But even those whom they judge are not necessarily selfish.  For that matter, the people judging are not entirely selfish, either!

Everyone I know cares about at least somebody.  A friend.  A Mom.  A Dad.  A husband.  A wife.  A son.  A daughter.  A dog.  A cat.  Maybe there are people out there who have been so bruised by life that they don’t care for anyone.  But I try not to sit in judgment of them.  Rather, I pity them because they are so lonely.  And, when I say that I pity them, I’m not saying that from a condescending standpoint of moral superiority.  It’s not easy for everyone to make friends.  And it’s sad when people have been so abused and beaten down that they neither care for someone else nor feel that others care for them.  What can they do?  Perhaps therapy or a relationship with God can launch them onto a path to healing, so that they can love themselves or feel loved by God.

One biblical passage that disturbs me is Matthew 5:46 (and I’ll be using the King James Version): “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”  I recognize and appreciate that Jesus is trying to encourage people to love their enemies, to go above and beyond what many people do.  Jesus is telling people that loving their enemies will bring them a reward, which can motivate them to keep on trying to love their enemies, especially when the going gets tough.

But my problem with the passage is this: I think that it’s commendable when people love those who love them.  Shouldn’t affection for another human being, or even a pet, be something that we should celebrate, rather than dismissing it by saying “That’s not special, for everyone loves those who love them”?  Can’t affection for another human being—-even if it’s reciprocal—-serve as a foundation for a love that is disinterested?  Should I beat myself up because I love those who love me, on some level?  Do I need to find difficult people and be nice to them before I can finally feel good about myself?

I think that the Bible is all for gratitude, and so I’d say that it’s commendable when we love those who love us, even if love for enemies may deserve a greater reward.  Moreover, another point to make is that it can be a challenge at times for us even to love those who do love us—-family and friends.  I believe that, anytime one meets that challenge, one should pat himself or herself on the back.

Why not celebrate love, both when it is interested and also when it is disinterested?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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