The nature of love

Sun, January 17, 2021 | By John Schroeder

Last Thursday I wrote about the narcissism that is prevalent in our politics and beliefs. On Friday, I commented on southern California pandemic policy and vaccine distribution. Believe it or not, these posts are interrelated.

My comments on the pandemic policy were about the fact that Los Angels County appears to be more focused on shutting down than vaccine distribution. What I find most fascinating is that the so-called “front-line” workers are getting the vaccine without any problems, but that there are no plans, no projections and nothing I can find in terms of distribution to the general public. I drove past one of the county’s major medical centers on Thursday and the staff vaccination line was measurable in miles, but when I called to ask when members of my household who might be vaccinated under government policy would receive it, there were no answers. If you think about it, it is a deep expression of narcissism. The medical community takes care of itself and protects itself while the general public suffers from draconian lockdowns and rising infection rates.

What I find really worrying is that so much of this narcissism claims love as motivation and justification. Far too often I have had Christ quoting Leviticus quoting to me: “Love your neighbor as yourself” and sharing how we must “care for ourselves” before we can care for others. But that is a misunderstanding from Jesus’ point of view. Jesus point is easy provided we do not distort it to suit our own needs and wants. Think about the passion and energy we put into our narcissism. Jesus says we need to love others as passionately and energetically as if they were us. This is very different from loving yourself in front of the other.

It must be remembered that Jesus also said, “There is none greater love than this, that a man will lay down his life for his friends.” The apostle Paul said:

Do not do anything out of selfishness or empty imagination, but humbly consider yourself more important than yourself; Pay attention not only to your personal interests, but also to the interests of others. Do you have this attitude in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, since he already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God to be something he could grasp, but emptied itself …

Does that sound like putting “self-care” before caring for the other?

Love is sacrifice, that is how it is defined. Also, this sacrifice doesn’t flow in any particular direction – it flows in all directions at the same time. After Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. I think most people remember that. The point of the parable is not that the Samaritan had found love and the Jewish passers-by did not. The point is we can’t choose who we love and who we don’t, said the love that sacrifices in nature.

I look at the cultural and political landscape of our nation today and see deep confusion, deepest confusion, about the nature of love. On this special Sunday morning, I will go to church and pray for an end to this confusion and for those places where I don’t really love.

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