3.15.2011

Preeminence of Love

(In response to a recent blog post of someone whom I follow, and in an effort to describe several days' thoughts with clarity...)

I wrote in the defense of Christianity recently, however not in the defense of radical apocalyptic pamphlets, and wanted to emphasize the importance of love in Christianity and was questioned why it could not be left simply at loving, or preaching love, without all the dogma?

It is of utmost importance to show that the greatest attribute of a Christian and of Christendom is love, as embodied in the classical passage read at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13.  While it mentions faith, hope, and love, it underlines love as the greatest and says that all will pass away, and essentially any seemingly good thing done apart from a motivation of love, is worthless.  While this would seem to support a message of simple love without obnoxious dogma I want to show why it is necessary to include it.

To summarize the Jewish Law Christ was asked which were the greatest commandments, to which He responded:


37And He said to him, " '(A)YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38"This is the great and foremost commandment.
 39"The second is like it, '(B)YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
 40"(C)On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
I know this sounds a bit preachy, but please bear with me.  Because one of the primary assumptions of Christianity is that humanity is imperfect, and therefore in need of a solution for the predicament in which it has necessarily found itself, we find that loving others is not a given.  I'm not going to say how dirty humanity is, or how we love murder or anything, I mean simply that there are traces of good, and quite a bit of good in others, but it is not our nature to love others and prefer them to ourselves.  We might find good examples of this sacrificial love in parents but even they are very much imperfect, as we can all attest to!

In short, we just don't have what it takes to love others like we love ourselves all the time and to prefer them to ourselves.  We can try, and we should, and we do but it is a losing battle every day.  Does that mean we should give up?  Absolutely not.  This proves the point.

The necessity of dogma does not mean we need to hammer down in people's throats the ten commandments or yell at them about the end of times or make them worship saints, etc.  I think we need to remember that the first step is to love God and then we'll learn how to love others.  If we try to love others first we will not succeed because there is more to it.

I just want to say that the message the Bible preaches at its core is that if you don't have God you'll find that loving is difficult, if not impossible, and that no matter how hard you try you will be left wanting.  I don't mean that it's easy after finding God; it's easier.  Preaching love to everyone without pointing them to the source of love and our example of sacrificial love then we have no one to imitate and no strength to love.  Even Christ underlined the simplicity of the Law and showed that loving God was first, and then others, and if you can do that then all of it will be good.

Love should be the primary characteristic displayed and our motivation for doing everything but we are going to need a lot of help, this is where the dogma is supposed to simplify things but it is also where people ironically complicate them.  Preaching the importance of nutrition to Africans and North Koreans in the absence of food is not very sensible.  Giving food makes a lot more sense.  Preaching love requires demonstrating love in the first place but also requires that people be empowered, in a sense, to love others.  We need not over complicate the doctrine, but the first part was loving God, then the rest comes from that.

Please, tell me if I've misrepresented any details or have been unclear about something.

6 comments:

  1. this was a very good read. thanks for sharing. I've many Christian friends and I like learning more about their beliefs. Although I'm a Muslim, I like learning about everyone else's faith. I think it makes me a better person to learn more about others and that's one of the teachings of the Quran. "That God made us into tribes and nations so that we may learn from one another"

    Differences are a beautiful thing that should be embraced rather than mocked or feared.

    Have a good day. =)

    www.riskofrain.com

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  2. RS, I think you really hit on something. There is certainly a lot more to be learned from each other and it really helps to have friends of differing religions. In Korea I talked to quite a few Buddhists and it was really different for me, being from the West, and being able to see the way they look at things.

    I think it's not just so we can learn from one another but also so that we can all thank God in the end, in our differing languages. I have a lot of reading to do, and I think I mentioned that I read Son of Hamas recently, a great book, and I've been full of questions about the Middle East ever since.

    I wish that more people quoted what you just quoted, it would help a lot of people to hear that every day :) Thanks for your thoughtful post!

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  3. I think other people do but these days, especially in the West, religion is not taken so seriously as it doesn't seem relevant and not up-to-date. I mean, if I were to say what I said in the U.S. I fear that people would just think I'm babbling about nonsense. After all, people always associate terrorism, violence and radicalism with Islam. =(

    I personally feel that Muslim terrorists who hurt innocent people to 'please God' don't deserve the title of a Muslim if what they do goes against the Quran's teachings.

    Ok, I really should stop before I bore u n sound too 'preachy'. I swear I'm not trying to preach.

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  4. Oh, funny! Who's preaching?! I thought I was. I was also thinking about this lately--if there is one thing that many Christians do lack it is the devotion that the Jews and Muslims have. There are, but it seems that it's almost 'built in' to the culture. People used to value religion more in the West but it has been passing away and I don't believe it to be a good thing.

    When I try to say that Christianity is a non violent religion I know that someone will say: How about the crusades, the conquistadores, or the abortion clinic bombers? Obviously they completely misunderstood it and used it as a political tool. How many people used Islam to fuel wars and stay in power while somehow managing to completely misrepresent it? Hmmm...

    Do you believe that people simply search through holy texts and find obscure passages to justify themselves? In America the Bible was used to justify slavery and promote racism, amongst other things. Gosh, RS, you sure are preachy!! haha

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  5. I thought I sounded preachy. Not you. =p

    I'm preachy?! oh dear. That's really not my intention. =S I'm a journalist in the making, I've too much to say. so bear with me and I apologise if I offend u in any way - again, not my intention.

    But before I silence myself a little, I'll reply to what u have said.

    To be fair, I know of MANY devoted Christians in M'sia. I think it's a cultural thing that has influenced Christians and even people of other faiths in the west. It's not uncommon for Muslims born over here (england) to be very secular. U get influenced a lot by social norms. and it's only natural but it reaches a point where u please others too much and disrespect yourself. its hard to explain.

    I think a lot of things are misrepresented in the media e.g. celeb tabloids. Statistics and all that are blown out of proportions. the news industry has become a business - dramatic news sell!

    I think some people DO consciously search through holy texts to justify themselves. while others ignorantly misinterpret holy texts due to lack of insight + education and act out of order. so many things... but hey, no one's perfect.

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  6. I was just kidding about the preachy thing--I started this whole post on religion and have helped you keep it going so it's clear we should drop our studies and become what we are destined to be--clearly leaders of religious movements.

    Maybe you can write about that sort of thing when you become a famous journalist/artist. You can talk about watered down religion in the West and high doses of tabloids and hollywood, oh nooo! Either way, the West might benefit from some of the old fashioned religious devotion. Korea is still very traditional and it was a bit of a shock for me--at first painful but now I think it has been good for me.

    It must be all the 'rationalism' that shuts out the religion in the end. I am going to read a lot about Malaysia and try to understand it a bit better, I've decided.

    You are right, no one is perfect. I wonder, where does that leave us? We must tell the world about the focal point so they don't get hung up on blowing people up and slaughtering non-catholics. Yikes!

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