Love Is All You Need or Is It?

portrait-of-jesus-logoIn this third of my series on the three theological virtues we will discuss the subject of Love and the role it plays in our lives.   For this purpose, I thought we should go right to the source. Perhaps no one in history has done more to promote the virtue of Love than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Jesus brought about a revolution in thinking and an entire faith founded on the single fundamental commandment to “Love thy neighbor as you Love yourself.”   Jesus called this the greatest of all commandments.  (Peace, I Give You Peace — Jason Upton) A great song to listen to as you read this blog today.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” —- Mark 12:31

I asked Jesus if he would visit with us to see where his teachings have gone and what his views are now concerning the state of Love in the world. Jesus agreed and for old time sake, we decided to meet in the Garden of Gethsemane. We found comfortable seats on a couple of stone benches and proceeded to talk.

John: Thank you Jesus for joining me here today. I was hoping we could get your perspective on a number of issues that I am sure you would consider important. Primary among these issues is the state of Love in the world and where your followers have taken your views on Love.

Jesus: Well, thanks John. It is a pleasure to be here with you. This spot brings back many old memories. I still remember my 12 apostles who could not stay awake even one hour to pray with me. But they meant well and were good people. Without them, my ideas would not have spread as far and wide as they have.

religious icebergJohn:   I am going to start off with a loaded question. You know I don’t believe you are a god but I do believe you are a great prophet. I remain skeptical of Christians though as I don’t see that they really have much Love in their hearts. Could you comment on the movement that bears your name and their adoption of Love as a guiding principle?

Jesus: No offense taken. I never said I was a god. I always said I was a “Son of Man.” Nevertheless, I preached Love. My concept of Love was much different than the Greek definitions which encompassed four distinct words for Love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.  I think you could say that I was speaking of a more transcendental type of Love. Man’s Love has been more of the Greek varieties. The Love of which I speak is not only unconditional but universal and all inclusive.

John: You were noted to have said: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you.” — Matthew 5:44

Jesus: Yes, I preached this often, but alas it seems to little avail.

John: Yes, I can’t say that I see too many Christians loving their enemies. I don’t even see too many Christians loving other Christians. Baptists dislike Catholics. Catholics dislike Lutherans. Lutherans dislike Episcopalians and they all dislike Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses.

black jesusJesus: Would that it were not so but why pick on Christians? Muslims dislike Jews. Sunni’s dislike Shiites. Hindus dislike Buddhists. Few if any religions in the world embrace anyone with Love unless they are from their own tribe.

John: You mention the word “tribe.” In our day, a “tribe” is very different than it was in your time. Today a gang, cult, cabal or cartel might be considered a “tribe” by sociologists. Some people insist today that “race” is the highest or most important affiliation that anyone can have.

Jesus: Nevertheless, it was the same thing in my time. Canaanites killing Philistines.   Assyrians killing Babylonians. Levites killing Samaritans. Throughout history, tribal affiliations have undone everything I tried to teach about Love and compassion.

religion worth killing forJohn: Then of course, we have the rise of Nations and Nation states and perhaps more now than at any time in history, everyone is affiliated with a family, a group or tribe, an ethnic identity, a state, a nation and then finally a purpose whether it is Communism, Capitalism or Socialism. There is little Love lost or shed on anyone not in your particular identity group. And of course, even within groups there is no getting along. Are you aware of how many different groups use your name and call themselves Christian? They cannot even get along with each other never mind getting along with their enemies.

Jesus: What you say is true. I was a simple carpenter’s son but I saw the hatred and killing and I wanted to change the way people treated each other. People embraced the “idea” of my ideology but they could never really assimilate it in their hearts. But better they at least start with a correct vision and continue to strive towards it.

John: Do you really think so? Are you aware of the Rwandan massacres wherein Christians from the Hutu tribe massacred their Christian neighbors and friends from the Tutsi tribe? Of course, I think you know of the brutality and murders that have been inflicted upon Jews also by their neighbors who were professing a belief in you. Millions and millions of Jews have been murdered by their Christian neighbors.

Jesus: Yes, I know. They profess that I died on a cross for their sins, but they have little understanding or empathy to sacrifice even for people who believe as they do never mind their enemies. I am appalled by the excuses they make in my name for these atrocities. Paul had it right when he wrote:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not Love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not Love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; Love does not envy; Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” —  1 Corinthians 13

John: Yes, many people have this quote on their bedroom walls and it is a popular recitation at weddings.   But you have said that words alone with not get you into heaven. I quote:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” —- Matthew 7:21

eliminate hungreJesus: Yes, I meant that good intentions, prayers, and admonitions are not enough. Without deeds and actions, you will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.   The pious Christian going to church on Sunday, saying prayers, tithing and reading the bible will not get into heaven if he or she trespasses on his neighbor.

John: And who is a Christian’s neighbor.

The Good SamaritanJesus: You might remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I answered a similar question about “who is thy neighbor?”   I replied to my disciples:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” — Luke 10: 25-37

All of those who forgive others are thy neighbors. Those who show Love for others are thy neighbors. Those who sow compassion and not hate are thy neighbors. Those who sow discord and hate are not your neighbors. Those who kill and maim cannot do so in my name. That is an abomination to me. No true Christian can kill or hurt another intentionally in my name. That is what Love is, doing good for others and not evil. The devil wants man to do evil. I want and have always wanted humans to Love one another.

“If you Love those who Love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ Love those who Love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” — Luke 6: 27-36

jesus-love-your-enemies-lgJohn: How do you account for all these Christian ministers spewing their hatred against our so called enemies, these war chaplains sanctifying battle readiness and priests and pastors blessing those who are going into combat?

Jesus: Clearly they are false prophets and do not understand my words. I have said:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” —Mark 9:42

John: What do you think about the killings and wars that have been done in the name of Christianity? Are these evil?

Jesus: I can understand why so many people are waiting for me to return. However, I have never left and they do not understand that fact. Those who choose to Love and do good will be saved. They have to make this choice. Their Father and I have never taken this choice away from anyone. You cannot come to the Kingdom of God except through making this choice. I have said that I am the way and I still point the way. Mankind has to make the choice. The devil instills fear and fear drives man to make evil choices. Evil thrives on fear. Fear drives man to choose hate over Love.   Love is still the way and the only choice to salvation.

John: Are you saying that people who kill or hate others will suffer eternal damnation?

homeless manJesus: Our Father is infinitely compassionate. There is no retribution in heaven. People make their hell on earth with their choices. Choose Love and you can have heaven where ever people gather in my name. Choose hate and you choose Hell. Choose hate and you choose Evil. Choose hate and you choose eternal damnation.

John: Jesus, thank you very much for visiting with us today. I have one final question. What do you think about the other world religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism?

Jesus: I think we are all teaching the power of Love over hate. But fear gets in the way of hearing our message. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims are all people who have been shown the way. They lose the way because of their own self-hatred and fear of others. Any of these paths can take you to salvation. There are many other paths as well that can lead anyone to salvation. There are no pagans, atheists or agnostics who cannot be saved. They all have the same choice as I gave my disciples.   The way has many paths but the same gate. That gate is Love.

John: Thank you Jesus.

Time for Questions:

Are you a Christian? What makes you a Christian? Does believing that Jesus was a God make you a Christian or is it how you behave that makes you a Christian? What can we do to help bring about more love in the world? What are you doing to accomplish this goal? Is it enough to just love your family? What role does forgiveness play in your life?

Life is just beginning.

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”  ― Robert A. HeinleinStranger in a Strange Land

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