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 lack.
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.