LOVE or LIKE- do you know the difference—I doubt many do. At Catholic masses yesterday around the word the Gospel reading was from Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus seemingly makes some crazy, unrealistic, statements—that is to those who don’t understand. Even my priest admitted that he had pondered and struggled with that reading all week. I truly wanted to stand up and explain to him that if he would/could define ‘love’, he would have no quandary—of course, I wouldn’t/ shouldn’t/didn’t do that. As a consequence, I suspect few if any gleaned any meaningful understanding from the reading.
In that reading, Jesus tells his listeners that they must ‘love’ their enemies—turn the other cheek if someone strikes you on one cheek—do good to those who hate you. What does all that mean? Are we supposed to lay down and let our enemies (those who hate us) roll over us like a steam roller—are we not allowed to defend ourselves, and if we do are we breaking God’s law? I think, without doubt, none of the above.
In order to understand what Jesus was/is saying, we must first understand what love is. That word love is co commonly misused as to almost have no recognizable meaning. It does, however, have eternal meaning which is derived from the epitome of love—God’s Perfect Love as manifested in this instance through the willing sacrificial death of Jesus. Simply stated love is acceptance. Jesus is calling us to accept our neighbor as a child of God who is loved by God just as we are. God/Jesus knows that each of us is a very imperfect being whose innate drives and understandings are based or our individual and collective life’s experiences. As a consequence, we develop attitudes obtuse to our neighbor even to the point of feeling it our right to be the aggressor to the point of taking someone’s life—even entire nations against other nations in war.
So how does that fit with Matthew’s Gospel reading? Very simply, Jesus is telling us we can never wish eternal evil on anyone or anything, because all are from the same creator. That does not mean that we have to like anyone or anything. The word like means to give ‘sensual pleasure’—see, feel, taste, smell, hear. It is entirely likely that at any given moment there are millions of people who don’t like each other—we get no sensual pleasure from them. However, we must never wish eternal evil on them. The Muslim terrorists who want to kill us are not liked at all by us, but they are children of God and must be accepted as such—that is Jesus message. Jesus never said we couldn’t kill an assailant if necessary to protect our selves and families, but in doing so, we must do with respect and acceptance.
That very concept of ‘love’ is what is so desperately missing in the universal philosophies of religion. If we could ever come to realize that God loves each of us equally, peace could be possible. But, as long as religion continues to spew the concept of a vengeful God, who is capable of showing more favor to some than others, there is absolutely no possibility of voluntary peace. We are taught that the more we go to church, or the more money we give to the church etc., the better God likes us, because we give him more sensual pleasure—therefore we get a ‘higher place’ in heaven. If that is not not tantamount to selling indulgences, I’ll eat my hat. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that a person who never darkens a church door, or a person who even denies the existence of God is loved by God equal to all others.
This vengeful, favoristic concept of God dreamed up by the Jews and perpetuated by Christianity has fostered a hostel attitude among people from day one. Again I am pleading for the recognition and acceptance of the World-wide Communion of Spirituality—the understanding that all things are of God and in God. Only then can peace be achieved. Please read my little books Wilderness Cry and Peace in Spirituality.