The Primacy of Love
By S M Chen, posted May 11, 2016 by D Kovacs.
“Where there is love, there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
[photo Pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Vatican. In public domain.]
Much of my life I believed that what you know is more important than whom you know. But, as I get farther from life’s inception and sunrise and closer to its terminus and sunset, I think I may have been in error.
I am particularly reminded during this, a political year fraught with unprecedented turmoil and strange happenings.
But not only in politics does this seem to be true.
Matters of ultimate concern support this notion. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3.)
Christ distilled the law into two parts: 1) love for God and 2) love for fellow man. One could not do 1) without 2). The two were intertwined, bipartite, and inseparable. He pointed out that religious leaders of His day, in failing to practice 2), also failed to properly demonstrate 1).
To my mind, one of the reasons He came was to expand human understanding of divinity. Among other things (and there were many), He broadened the interpretation of commandments VI and VII.
Above all, He emphasized love. Love for the publicans, the outcasts, the poor, the women of ill repute. The marginalized, the disenfranchised, the moral lepers of His day. His was an inclusive, not exclusive, love.
To those who, not unlike some believers in subsequent times, thought themselves the Chosen (and acted accordingly), He reminds, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” (John 10:16.)
Contributors to Holy Writ recognized the primacy of love.
The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 13, emphasized its importance over faith and hope, two other attributes cherished by believers everywhere.
And Peter, whose own history with Jesus was poignant and cautionary, wrote, “… love shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8.)
Other writers have been moved by love.
I first encountered the short poem “Outwitted” in high school. By Edwin Markham, it has adhered to memory:
“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”
Shakespeare admonished: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” (From “All’s Well That Ends Well”).
One of the founders of our denomination wrote this: “The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving… Christian” (E. G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 100).
She also wrote, “If we would be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be a hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.” (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 9, p. 189).
I read something not long ago that I had not erstwhile considered. Rabbi Daniel Brenner reminds of a teaching from the Talmud (Megillah 10b) about God’s reaction when the Hebrews began to celebrate the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea (which had parted to allow the Hebrews safe passage): “How can you sing as the works of My hand are drowning in the sea?”
God does not delight in the destruction of those who choose the broad path over the narrow one He recommends. Rather, as Christ lamented, as He regarded Jerusalem from a vantage point of sorrow: “… how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and ye would not?” (Matt. 23:37.)
– – – –
And, lest we think that the weight of timing of the Second Advent rests entirely on our narrow shoulders, it is well to remember Elijah, whose triumph over 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was followed by abject terror at the threat of Queen Jezebel, such that, after fleeing, he wished to perish. “I, even I only, am left,” he said to the Almighty near the entrance to a cave.
“Go and return,” he was told. “You are not the only one. I have 7000 others who have not bent a knee to Baal.” (Adapted from 1 Kings 19:15-18.)
Christ commented, as he triumphantly rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, “I tell you that, if these (people) should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40.)
Just as the heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing (Blaise Pascal), so the Almighty has ways that are as beyond our ways as the heavens are above earth.
We are not told to speculate about those ways, which may well exceed our ken and imagination.
What we are told to do is love.