Christianity fundamentally bases one’s life on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. It is faith in Christ, His crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It is the belief in all that He stood for and abiding by that despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Love, on the other hand, is quite complex. It is what a mother feels for her children; her innate desire to protect them and be their rock, desire to see them soar. It is what a husband feels for his wife protecting her. They want only the best for each other. Thus, essentially, love is caring for someone else and wanting him or her to be all they can be. In the Christian sense, love can be succinctly summarized as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with your entire mind.” Frances calls this the first and great commandment. It is combined with: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Nelson, 1979; Matthew 22:37-40).
I agree with Frances that sticking to these two rules primarily provides the basis of our duty to God and others. They can further be used to navigate the murky waters of our lives that are quite different from those in Biblical times. Extrapolation lets us know what is expected of us in every situation, even if it is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. As Frances argues, the first rule shows us our duty to God: to love, obey, and trust in Him, even if it seems that He is not there. After all, He is our father, and no father would willingly watch His children suffer. The second rule illustrates our duty to our fellow men. If you love someone as much as you love yourself, it means that you are equal. It is the understanding that what affects you, affects your brothers as well. If you are cold, they are cold. If you are hungry, they are hungry. If something is harmful to you, it, probably, is not safe for anyone else either. One’s response to that aspect would be to seek shelter, warm clothing and food, and avoid the harm. If one is truly Christian, he/she should want the same for his neighbors. It is not only to sympathize, but also empathize and respond. The response is the true expression of love.
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However, the response should not be superficial. It just does not boil down to trying to help your neighbor giving him/her some clothes or warm food. As Frances points out, the inner being is as important as the outward state. Doing something good due to unshakeable sense of obligation towards our friends and family is not love. It can be illustrated by scripture-1 Corinthians 13:3, which states that though one bestows all their goods to the underprivileged or gives their body for burning, yet they have no love, it serves them nothing. Love encompasses not only the action, but the feeling as well. Frances argues that love is not only benevolence, but also recognition of the fact that everyone has something to offer. We appreciate them and what they bring to the table. It goes further to the wish of being related to them. I agree with both of these notions. Love stems from the feeling of goodwill and concern for our neighbor. Concern and goodwill cannot be achieved if we do not think that our neighbors have something valuable to offer, and if we do not associate ourselves with them. The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us that the concern for others can be as simple as associating them with humanity. We are humanity. They are humanity. Thus, we are together.
The aspect of love further extends to the self-malleability that we grant ourselves. We do not constrain ourselves to our failings in any particular incident or any particular day. It is because we realize we will do better tomorrow. We recognize our innate ability to improve and change. It, if extended to our neighbors, extols the virtue of forgiveness. Understanding that our neighbors may often fail but still possess the inherent virtue to be better tomorrow is the bedrock of forgiveness. As Jesus pointed out, first, we should be concerned about the log in our own eye before the speck in our brother’s (Nelson, 1979; Matthew 7:3). It is given more credence by the fact that as we forgive others for their trespasses, so does God forgiving our own, and vice versa (Nelson, 1979; Matthew 6:14-15).
Some of the points that Frances expresses are rather vague. He argues that behavior is right or wrong depending on the motivating factor behind it. He contends that anything done out of love or conceived with no ill intention is right compared to indifference toward the implications of one’s actions. He points out that genuinely misguided Nazis and religious fanatics who are against scientific advancement might be let off the hook if they love. However, love is not only the feeling, but also the action. I, personally, believe that genuine love will always be incorporated into one’s conscience in all actions. Our conscience points out the outcome of any action in regard to the harm it may cause. The right and the wrong must be judged not only by the motivating feeling but also by the subsequent action undertaken.
Frances points out that we should not blindly follow the rules but always bear in mind their objective. He illustrates two scenarios, which involve the moderate sensible partaking of alcohol. In front of a recovering drunk, it would not be suitable, as it may result in a relapse. However, in the presence of a Christian skeptic, it may be acceptable to bring him back to the fold. I agree with this. As Jesus pointed out, if a donkey fell into a pit on the Sabbath, it should be removed even if one is not allowed to work. Removal will not be work but concern for the animal’s well-being. Is that not love? It shows both feeling and action. The rules are for guidance and do not always take into account all the circumstances. Actions should be judged once everything is taken into account.
I, once, volunteered at a food bank that catered for the homeless for around eight hours on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. I got to know Peggy-the manager-very well. Peggy admitted that convincing people to contribute their groceries was quite hard. Harder than actually dividing the little that they got amongst the homeless. However, many realized their plight few were ready to contribute. Instead, they implored the church or government to intervene. Very few believed parting with five dollars or five dollars worth of groceries made any difference at all choosing instead to bash the falling standards of the social welfare system. They had the emotion but lacked the action to act on it. However, I saw that very little goes far. The homeless are not interested in gourmet or five course meals. All they want is sustenance. Five dollars worth of groceries was used to make soup that fed around five to ten people. Some of the staff narrated how some would ask where loved ones of the homeless were and why they were not taking care of their own. They argued they had enough on their plates and did not need to pile on more especially for strangers. These people lacked the compassion that comes with love and refused to identify with the humanity of the homeless in disregard of the story of the Good Samaritan.
A few, however, contributed from what they had bought or even went back to the store and bought groceries. Those who felt they did not have money, volunteered to cook, stack up received provisions or they tried to get other people to contribute. One of those people is Sam whom I met on my second week. Sam is a second year performance arts student at the local community college. He told me since he does not have money; he gives the best next thing-his time. Sam always stops by after class, chats with the homeless before taking inventory yet he does not get paid. He contends that he believes someone would do the same for him. Out of humanity. Out of love.
It was a firsthand experience in the relation between emotion and action. Love is emotion, love is action, and love is both.
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