The Need of Love



And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. (Luke 6:31)

Ahhh - the Golden Rule. If people would just live by that then the world would be sooo much better. Don't ya think? Sure. You wouldn't want someone to steal from you, so don't steal from them, etc.

But - there is a subtlety here that needs understanding first. What I want, desire, need is not necessarily the same as you. For you to just do for me what you want done for you can actually be quite irritating to me. I like to sit at a sidewalk cafe, sipping coffe, and thinking about stuff. From time to time someone will see me sitting there apparently doing nothing with no one to talk to and assume I must be lonely and in need of conversation. So, they want to chat me up a bit, ya know. I can appreciate their concern, but I find that very irritating. I didn't really want or need to talk to them and their attempt at conversation is an unwanted distraction. They incorrectly projected their own desires and needs onto me and acted in what they thought was a friendly manner.

That's the subtlety here in the Golden Rule. If you are filled with self and see everybody else in terms of yourself you cannot truly live by this rule. It's not truly love for the other person; it's love of oneself projected onto somebody else. To truly love means to understand that the other is an individual and may have very different desires and needs than our self's desires and needs. This means we have to get to know and understand the other as an individual first. That can be quite difficult. The self-centered nature of humans is such that we tend to assume that everyone is somehow like me - otherwise they are probably not OK and need me to make them like me. That's irritating, isn't it? That self tends to think it is loving the other when it is really loving the self.

When we look at what Jesus did for us we see something different. He did not need us to die to remove His sin. Thus Jesus was not acting out His own need by projecting it onto us. We needed to have propitiation for our sin and Jesus responded to that need even though it meant His death. To walk in His footsteps to the cross is to recognize the true needs of others and seek to fill that need, even if it is not something we would want and even if it may cost us something dear.

There are some variations on the Golden Rule that people are more likely to live by today. The typical one seems to be "do what you want so long as you don't harm someone else." Apart from the failure in that statement to take into account moral absolutes, this also requires an understanding of the other's need. You may act in a way that you think is not harmful and end up harming the other person unintentionally. There are many examples of this. One example might be that you drink wine and have no problem with alcohol, so you give wine to your guest unaware of his alcoholism. So, it's not just a matter of "do no harm" - you have to understand what actually harms the other person first and that requries more than concern about the self. The self-centered basis of this alternate to the Golden Rule creates a presumption that self-desires are all important. It really is the attitude that I won't do something bad to you so that you won't do something bad to me. That is not the level of love that Jesus calls us to.

Notice also how it is essentially passive whereas the teaching and life of Jesus is active. The teaching of Jesus requires action - "DO unto others" - not just "do not" in order to avoid harm. We who follow Jesus are required to act FOR the benefit of others not just avoid their harm while we enjoy life. Love as an active principle of compassion and self-denial, not an act of self-preservation, is what Jesus commands us to do. That is, after all, what God did. "God so loved the world that He gave"... God's love for us is that He did not sit back and just "do no harm" but rather intervened directly to create good for us.

God's direct intervention was to come into the world as the Son - Jesus, and then offer His own life for us. Jesus put God on display in physical form so that we might know Him directly. We see the nature of God's love for us in the actions of Jesus. He poured out His life so that we might live. That is the direct example of what love means to God and is the model for what we must do.

What usually holds us back from this pouring out for others is our own fear of losing the self. If I do all for others, then what is left for me? That is the stumblingblock in the lives of many saints. We understand we need to love, but cannot do so out of a fear that there will be nothing left. That ultimately leads to the rationalization that reduces the love expressed in the Golden Rule to simply helping others - being kind, genourous, etc, but not really all the way to self-sacrifice. Remember that without the loss of self-centeredness there can be no true compassion for others needs. It won't work to go half-way. Are we then to just live in misery so that others can benefit? That can become a perverse understanding of the life of service to others. One where we revel in our own misery but proud of the fact that we are loving others. Surely God does not want that, so, what is it that we are to do?

This is where faith comes into the picture. Jesus gave up His life, but with the expectation of ressurrection. His faith was that pouring Himself out completely He would be refilled by the power of God. That is the model for us, and the hope that we have that drives us to love unconditionally and sacrificially. We must have faith that God will continuously refill us so that we can continue to pour out those blessings to others. With that hope, built on our faith in God's provision, we can be the means of filling the need for love of others.


But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Php 4:19)




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