News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: How Much Love is Enough?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How Much Love is Enough?

From a Christian persepctive--at least for some traditions--the example for "how much love" we owe the other does not really enter it. Why? Because this implies a different criterion for measuring one's responsibility to others. The criterion here is God's love for humans in general. God gave all, so humans a believer is expected to give all in loving others. The frameowrk within which Americans express this is often economic terms--but in Christian terms, one simply can't measure love by dollars and cents. Instead, the measures used come from the examples set, as I have noted, by God's infinite loive for humans and Jesus' love for all. Perhaps, the best example of this, and the one that jesus teaches is that of the Good Samaritan. Here we find a man helping another man--en enemy of sorts--even though many others passed up helping this person. The samaritan goes out of his way to bind the man's wounds, carry him to an inn, pay for a doctor, pay for room and board, and then leaves the man in the care of the innkeeper. The story does not say "how much" he spent out of his pocket--it simply tells that this guy saw another person, a person from another, perhaps hated, tribe, and yet seemed to allow netiehr these or economic obstacles to stop him from helping this man. This example, at least from a Christian persepctive, shows that one must overcome some pretty difficult issues: dislike/hatred of the other (eg, someone from a different neighborhood, a person of another race, a drunk, etc.), distance in getting him to a place of safety, paying out of pocket costs, etc.

Having said this, it must be realized that from the Christian persepctive there is this command to love others as you love yourself that in many ways is an infinite command to do something that goes against much in human nature, especially the desire to "look out for number one." There is also the added persepctive that when one loves the other it cannot simply be just a matter of habit or carrying out some duty--it must "come from the heart." It must be something that one understands as being part of the meaning of who one is as a person, apart from the easy task of fulfilling a social role. Therefore, for example, a rich person who might give a gazillion dollars to charity out of some desire to get others' acclaim is really, from a Christian persepctive, much less worthy of true charity than a person who gives as much as they can with a true intent to alleviate suffering and poverty. This internal aspect of love is just as important as the outward show; in a Christian perspective, the internal/external are inseprable.

I know this does not answer your question with an easy "how to" approach. But from this persepctive such an approach is simply not possible since it does call for this internal aspect that must come from within one's soul or spirit--and one's feeling of responsibility to others which is commanded.

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