Thursday 29 November 2012

Why love thy neighbour? A bleg


And the second is like it, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, upon these hang all the law and the prophets.


But why should I love my neighbour (as myself)?

I mean why from the perspective of salvation.

This I have always found difficult to understand - indeed I have't found what strikes me as a good explanation.


That I must love my neighbour is clear - it is a commandment, I don't need to understand it but to do it.

However, it is such a big thing, and I find it hard to make sense of - the sense of it does not come naturally or easily to me.


I have therefore had to do a bit of theology for myself - which I will explain later (if necessary) - but first I would like to hear from others about how they explain the salvific necessity of LTN - how it fits in with the scheme of things...



AlexT said...

"But I say to you," the Lord says, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you." Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.

—St. Maximus the Confessor

AlexT said...

"Modern interpretations of the commandment in the Torah reflect this individualistic attitude. The first commandment is that you love God with all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength, and the second is that you love your neighbor as yourself. The only way you can prove you love God is by loving your neighbor, and the only way you can love your neighbor in this world is by endless forgiveness. So, "love your neighbor as yourself." However, in certain modern editions of the Bible, I have seen this translated as, "You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." But that's not what it says."

—Fr. Hopko (From an essay on forgiveness)

AlexT said...

"We come to understand that we are in a living relationship with Christ which requires us to learn the one true rule of the Master — the law of love. We learn how to apply this law to every situation. "Love God first, then love your neighbor as yourself." This Law of love moves us beyond the fear of breaking rules to imitating Christ our Lord."

—Fr. Ted Bobosh

AlexT said...

Sorry for only leaving the quotes of others, but they say it better than i could!

God bless you!

stephens said...

My simplistic take on it is this:-
A chap is driving along and someone pulls out in front of him, nearly causing and accident.
As is often the case, he might take the position that "they are a bloody idiot", he presumes they are always driving badly and "they should not be on the road."
Alternatively, if the same chap was being given a lift by a friend or relative and they pull out in front of someone, who gets very angry, then his attitude might be quite different.
It is often the case that the same person will be likely to think "why are they so angry, anyone can make a mistake" or " I suppose they think their perfect."
In both cases he knows that nearly causing an accident is wrong but he doesn't apply the same consideration in each case.
My understanding of theology is very simplistic but I think that for God our wrongs or sins are never acceptable, but that he gives us all the same consideration in his offer of forgiveness. It is the same offer to wipe the slate clean regardless of the magnitude of each persons fallen wrongful nature.
When you are wronged by a (fallen) individual it is never acceptable (a sin is a sin) but you need to give due consideration to the fact that God values even the vilest person enough to offer salvation and the chance of being shaped perfect. You need to give that same consideration, without fear or favour, as you would give your beloved child if they had done wrong. And that consideration is the Love.

JP said...

I love my neighbor... because she has complied with the strict instruction I gave her five years ago never to communicate with me in any fashion. She was a real pest before that. =)

josh said...

In addition to what others have said...

Because community is a real part of creation, like the family and the nations. Not exactly one flesh, but not just the random interactions of atomic individuals.

To destroy community by not loving (in the agape sense) your neighbor and trying to bring about his good is a sin because it destroys a real part of creation, like destroying your own body or committing adultery.

Wurmbrand said...

To paraphrase Tolkien, we love by the law in which we're made, and we were made by the Trinity, the one God between the three Persons of Whom there is love from eternity -- yes, one could even say in some sense a love of the Neighbor.

George Goerlich said...

Loving your neighbor as yourself is the ultimate consequence of seeking true fairness and finding insight that lies above this world. A true King, a true Judge would need to treat others as he would treat himself. To love others as he would love himself. There is no other way to avoid bias.

Of course, this may be impossible for men to ultimately achieve, but it is in trying to achieve this that we would find the most noble among us. Those closest to this ideal, when combined with others such as wisdom, would make the greatest leaders. Those lacking this quality but having others, like strength and cleverness, could only be tyrants.

It is undeniable that for us to all seek this ideal would make for a better place.

Now we must also reverse this. Someone filled with self-hatred should not hate others as they hate themselves. It is clear from this that such a person should not hate themselves at all.

This also does not, as some leftists imply, mean we must redistribute all wealth and tear down the classes. If the lower classes or such would just squander the wealth or power (such as in Democracy) this is not a good. Of course it must also mean the upper classes can not abuse and enslave the lower classes. That should treat the lower classes to what they feel is best if they were also in the same position (with the same attributes, perhaps less intelligent, perhaps less wise).

Further, we must recognize that if you commit a heinous act you should not permit others to commit heinous acts because you "love them as yourself", logically you must be willing to bring justice to yourself just as much as you would to your neighbor.

Disclaimer: I am not a Christian.

Valkea said...

What is neighbor?

Leviticus 19:18; "You shall not take vengeance or bear grudge against *the sons of your own people*, but shall love your neighbor as yourself ..."

Also, the ten commandments are part of a larger context in the original text, which can be read: "Thou shalt not kill, neither shalt though commit adultery, neither shalt thou steal, neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor, neither shalt thou covet your neighbor's wife and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neibhbor's ... the children of thy people, the sons of your own people ..."

Jesus obeyed these same rules, Matthew 10:5-6, 15:21-28, etc.

Thus first of all there are limitations to whom we are obliged to love. Loving our own people is largest love we can sustain, and even in this it is often wearing precariously thin in the outer limits. Beyond these limits, e.g universal love, love will turn into chaos, exploitation, hatred, violence, pretensions, etc. Only God loves and can love universally.

The second thing is that Jesus taught that loving thy neighbor is above mere reciprocity. Pagans can be reciprocal in their love, but Christians must be above this. Christians do loving things which are not reciprocated in this life, but in heaven by God. These strengthen our Christian communities in this life, and gather treasures to the afterlife. Matthew 5:17-37 and 6:1-24

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

These will maximize multifaceted saving love in our lives.

Bruce B. said...

Just a guess. It’s important for salvation because we’re only going to heaven if we’re perfect and true love of one’s neighbor (not liberal “love”) is part of being perfect. Of course, the vast majority of us aren’t going to be perfect in this world. That’s what something like purgatory is for.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks to all for these.

I will ponder further.

Chris C. said...

Humility in Christ.

Why don't we love people? Pride.

Christ was entitled to everything, yet he humbled himself in obedience to the Father. How can we then be entitled to anything?

Loving one's neighbor is the result; the fruit, of a right relation to God.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CC - That's an interesting way of putting it, and ensures the correct priority of loving God, then neighbour - the one leading to the other, and evidence of the other.

Then love of neighbour is appropriate for Men who are (in some sense) 'in it together'.

I can seen love as forgiveness, and the inverse of pride - but I feel that it must be more than this: an active and permanent... I was going to say force, but love is almost a substance, something which is permanent and can accumulate (just as sin and its effects have accumulated through history).


Question - does our love of neighbour assist in his salvation?

I think it does - must do; for this to be a commandment it must be about salvation - and it seems unlikely that love, of all things, should only be effectual upon the lover and not the loved - true love is, after all, self-sacrificing and *for* the loved.

So here is my confusion - that we are (apparently, superficially) called to love of neighbour, and yet this love is (in terms of salvation) apparently for our own good (and not for the neighbour's good, i.e. for his salvation).

Yet I feel sure that a proper understanding of this matter would show how love of my neighbour is (in some way) contributing to his salvation - perhaps to his chance of salvation (because, after all, he and nobody else must choose to accept the salvation offered him).

Thus I feel I need a metaphor, or parable, to explain how this works in terms I can understand.

Joseph said...

Here's my take: Many people need to have their faith in love restored before they can come to having a faith in God. 'Love thy neighbor' is a call for us to do just that. This can then serve as a bridge towards salvation.

If man has killed God, then it is likely that love has suffered a similar fate.

Houellebecq seems to have picked up on this; from the Paris Review:

What is your concept of the possibility of love between a man and a woman?

I’d say that the question whether love still exists plays the same role in my novels as the question of God’s existence in Dostoyevsky.

Love may no longer exist?

That’s the question of the moment.

And what is causing its disappearance?

The materialist idea that we are alone, we live alone and we die alone. That’s not very compatible with love.

Catherine said...

Because God is love and we are called to be godlike. The Trinity is a relationship, not an individual, and individuals seeking theosis are called to imitate it. Theosis (although not always explicitly called that, obviously) is the key to salvation (ungodlike individuals of course do not do well in the actual presence of God).

Also (responding to the question in the comments) can't there be a purely practical element in love influencing another's salvation? Others are more likely to believe/seek a "god of love" if they can see this love reflected in other humans.

Anonymous said...

Dave P said..

There is an assumption that the neighbour or neighbours, are culturally close. It would have been quite uncommon in general, that your was someone quite foreign in culture.

stephen c said...

Because, before we were born, we were all friends. Every single one of us. In that pre-birth reality, the bravest aspired to have the worst parents and to live in the worst places, so that to their friends would fall the rare lot of having a loving and comfortable home. Or else there were no bravest, and Jesus walked among us, before we were born, and with a very compassionate expression assigned some of us to the hellish existence of being a child of two vicious sinners (who themselves had been brave enough to risk being children of even worse vicious sinners). I have known a lot of very lousy people in my childhood, college/graduate school academic track, and military and later civilian grinding jobs, and I assume each of those lousy people were good before they were born, and just didn't rise to the standard of being decent after years of neglect/abuse or, to lighten up a little, after years of forced living with the type of people you wouldn't want to sit next to on a bus for more than an hour. To personalize this, I assume that in our pristine state each of the lousy people who have darkened my life and caused untold years of on-and-off emotional and even physical pain had, back before they went bad, taken a risk to be better than their circumstances and had simply failed(just as I took a risk when choosing - or accepting from the Lord an assignment to - my far-from-perfect family and community and nation, and subsequently failed to avoid causing pain to others). Just because they (or we)didn't do quite as well as they (or we) hoped in that pre-dawn moment when the Good Lord said can you follow me (and just because at this moment in time they, or we, miight be oblivous to the pain their or our sins have caused) doesn't mean we were not friends once and might not be friends again (but only in heaven, this is not an argument for judicially excusing serious offenses on this earth, or for offering true friendship to those who do not deserve it). Loving lousy people is simply imagining or remembering heaven.

Brett Stevens said...

As a Platonist, I'm going to say this one is a translation problem:

Neighbor: one who works with you toward a common goal, both as extended kin (member of a tribe) and as someone with their priorities in order.

Love: give to them what is due. If they are good, give goodness. If they are bad, smite.

As yourself: Not because you're supposed to do it, but because you recognize it is the right order, and by disciplining yourself to this order, you become closer to the mind-state of God.

I don't think it means "tolerate everybody, no matter how delusional," as the modern liberal reading suggests. I don't think forgiveness is anything other than a spiritual doctrine. Forgive does not mean forget, and it does not mean a lack of retribution. It means do not resent and leave ultimate judgment to God; e.g. you don't have to torture your neighbor to death for being a rapist, but simply dispatch him with a sword and let God fix his soul.

Bruce B. said...

The BCP reading for the 1st Sunday in Advent provides an answer:
“OWE no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
In loving we have fulfilled the law.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Yes, I read this yesterday! However, it still does not provide a positive reason - it is still a negative matter of not disobeying The Law. I feel sure there is even-more to it than this.