Saturday, January 25, 2014

Love is a Decision

The book The Invisible Gorilla  reminds us that what we often think we know, we do not.  An article in Bible and Life returns to the experiments conducted some years ago by two professors that showed that when we are concentrating on something, we miss seeing other things happening around us, which tends to self-deception and an illusory view of reality.

Loving is not any different. We have seen the portrayal of love in numberless movies, dramas, poetry and novels. We have experienced love in a variety of ways which has left us with a feeling that we understand what love is.

The priest-writer quotes from a poem in which a lover revels in the thought of buying a present for the loved one. The very thought of buying a present fills him with great joy;  he has someone he loves. When we think of love the first thought that often comes to mind is this emotional expression of love. But when we hear  what Jesus had to say about love his words leave us  perplexed.

"The command I give you is this, that you love one another" (John 15:17). This is the command that was given at the Last Supper to his disciples.  This is a strange kind of love. A command is what a superior tells a subordinate to do:  A mother commanding her child to stop watching TV., an officer telling a soldier to dig a trench. Jesus told his disciples to follow him and to take up their cross, but commanding another to love is different, says the writer. It's an entirely different command than the those given above.

Love, most of us think, has to do with the heart and our feelings. Is Jesus asking the disciples to like each other, to have a warm feeling toward the other? Is this possible? asks the writer. Can anyone command another to have a loving feeling toward another?  Of course not, and Jesus knew this well; he was not asking us to do what we often understand love to be.

The article goes back to the Book of Leviticus and the command to love (19:11-18). You shall not steal, lie, swear falsely, defraud, withhold the wages of your day laborer, act dishonestly or spread slander and stand idly by when your neighbor's life is at stake, but love your neighbor as yourself. Loving in this very concrete and practical way has nothing to do with feeling, says the writer.

Love is not limited to the field of emotions. Love has to do with the structures of society, with justice. The command of Jesus is to help those who are in need of our help: the weak, the poor, those whose rights have been trampled; that we are to work for justice in society.

Love must manifest in doing, he says. And now is the time for us to do the work that will bring the justice and peace of God into society. This is love. This is our duty.

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