Following on from the previous post, where someone’s motto was, “Love is always the answer,” I suppose this question above would be the natural exploration of the motto. Especially if on some level, I find myself (grudgingly) agreeing with it.
At this point, I have to hold up my hands and say, I wouldn’t know what love is if it came up and smacked me in the face.
Which it wouldn’t of course.
But whatever love is, it has to work. It can’t just be a feeling I pick and choose. It can’t just be a vague sense of liking someone or something. It has to make sense consistently, otherwise how does “Love is always the answer” work for my friend?
At this point, I’m going to cheat a bit and draw on my religious, churchy background and see if I can make this work. If you don’t believe in God (the one depicted in the Bible and most churches), so much the better – if we’re going to get a working definition, then it needs to withstand robust and sceptical scrutiny.
We’ve all heard the Christiany phrase, “God is Love” many times.
It’s annoying I know. Even for me. And I believe it.
Then we have the Christiany doctrine of, “Jesus is God,” which personally is less annoying, but somewhat more troubling. Especially if I believe it to be true. This means we can scrutinize him, using his own book, and gleefully pick up on any inconstancies to slam smug Christians with. Do bear in mind, I’m not trying to disprove Christianity or God or the Bible here, (although I might try and do that later…) Rather, I’m using the “absoluteness” of it to try and suss out a definition of love.
(Slight diversion here) As in, if, according to conventional doctrine, the Bible is the Word of God, and Jesus is God, then we can trust what it says about him, right? It also means, if the Bible says something bad about Jesus, then all Christianity collapses around itself. Either there is something bad about Jesus, in which case how can he be God? Or Jesus is fine but the Bible is wrong, in which case how can we trust anything the Bible says? Including the part where Jesus is God? (Diversion ends)
So, let’s assume the Bible is true. Therefore what it says about Jesus is true – essentially he is God, the second person of the trinity etc. And that he lived a perfect life and did not sin. Ever. It essentially says God is love too – so let’s assume that to be true. Therefore, every account of Jesus in the Bible – anything he said, did, thought cannot (according to the Bible) be sinful, and all of it must be in love. Follow?
Not to forget, this same Bible actually commands us to “love one another.” No pressure there then.
Most people won’t have a problem with the nice stuff. Healing the sick, forgiving sins, standing up for the poor and downtrodden, driving out demons and generally doing a lot of nice things. All good so far.
The “dying for the sins of the world” part, often depicted as the ultimate expression of love, is uncomfortable to consider at best for a variety of reasons, not least because it implies I have a problem I cannot solve. But most people accept that at least he meant well, regardless of whether it was really necessary, do we really need it etc. Nothing inconsistent there.
But, if Jesus (as God, and in human form on earth too) loves everyone, how about the Pharisees? And the Jewish leaders? He had some pretty harsh words for them, not to mention ominous warnings. And what of driving away of the livestock of people selling them in the temple, and overturning the tables of the moneylenders?
If all this is supposedly consistent with love, then I’d like to propose that loving someone is not the same as liking them. And it certainly isn’t synonymous with “being nice” to everyone. The second part is easy enough to accept – think parents disciplining their children, or a sponsor telling tough truths to a sponsee in denial. The first is a bit of relief for me. That means when my kids mess up and I have to “lovingly discipline” them, I don’t have to like them. If loving someone does not require liking them, then suddenly a few more things fall into place. I can “love thy neighbour as thyself” – I don’t have to like them. For that matter, I can even “love thy enemies” – and I certainly don’t like them, and you can’t make me.
Love, then, is not like.