Why do horizontal relationships with people around must spring forth out of our vertical relationship with Him?

(chandra kishore sardar) #1

Recently, one of my friends introduced me to one of his friends who is a seeker. My friend wanted me to talk with him and answer his queries and questions about faith and Bible. Somehow i was feeling incompetent and felt strongly that i wouldnt go well.
As per what i could make out , he had started going to church because his christian girlfriend broke up with due to his religion (hinduism). Through the conservation i got to know that he didnt believe in the Bible’s stories and the holy spirit but only the creator.
He was very much a critique of my belief that our relationship with the creator fills our tanks up and henceforth we can give that love away. Unless we let ourselves be filled with that perfect love we can never ever love those around with a love that is unselfish and doesnt expect anything in return because we humans are imperfect and can only love so much out of our own will and strength. But he wouldnt agree with me.
I am not sad or feeling bad because i couldnt convince him with my answers but rather i am intrigued and thinking how deep are our longings to be loved and love.
I would really appreciate insights into!!

(SeanO) #2

@chandrakishore That is a great question. I think the first thing to note is that before Jesus other religions did have something similar to golden rule, but it was generally about maintaining good social relationships. You shouldn’t harm others because then they might harm you - you should be kind because then others will treat you well. This reciprocity is really a self-oriented twist on the golden rule.

The actual law that Jesus taught was to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’, whereas all previous philosophies and religions had taught ‘don’t do to your neighbor what you don’t want done to you’. Jesus’ teaching is rooted in God’s unconditional love for us and our responsibility to share that same love with the world.

A few things to consider about God’s love and our response to it that make it unique in comparison to what someone without God would call ‘selfless’ love:

  1. God’s love is agape love - selfless and sacrifical
  2. God’s love is rooted in truth - a true view of Himself and true estimate of who we are
  3. God loves even His enemies

When people in our culture talk about loving someone - they generally mean acquiescing to their wants / desires. God, on the other hand, recognizes that our wants / desires are sometimes not the best thing for us and that to give into them would actually be to harm us. Like a loving Father, God’s love seeks to build us into people who live in accordance with reality and can have true life instead of those who will suffer spiritual death.

This article was also good and I recommend reading on the uniqueness of Christ’s teaching:

It is clear from this that the Golden Rule arises not from the idea of reciprocity but from the idea of the gift—the gift given from a fount of goodness, love, and beneficence, not from the hope of reciprocity. Jesus says nothing about the Golden Rule producing a social effect. Our obligation to observe it derives from our position as the recipients of God’s unstinting gifts. We are not in a position to reciprocate what He gives us. The model of giving represented by His unreciprocated bounty is the relational model on which Jesus bases the Golden Rule.

Christ grant you wisdom as you share with your friends :slight_smile:

(Lakshmi Mehta) #3

Hi @chandrakishore, this is a great question, one that I happened to think about in a recent discussion. What I have to say is much in line with what @SeanO pointed out “When people in our culture talk about loving someone - they generally mean acquiescing to their wants / desires” .

I think these wants/desires have a lot to do with our view of morality. Our view of morality affects how we view ourselves, others and how we view God and can become a source of pride or loss thereof. Here’s a possible scenario - When we keep the standards we have for ourselves, we love ourselves, it can become a matter of pride and we feel worthy of love by others. When we fail to reach the standards, we feel guilt, we feel shame before others with ability to keep those standards, we feel we are not worthy of love by others. We may mask our inability to keep the standards just so that we are loved by others. It is also possible to extend this attitude toward God. People tend to love a God who operates by their standards and reject a God who doesn’t meet their standards. This kind of attitude can also extend to others, accepting some and rejecting some based on our personal views. So I think the knowledge of God protects us from such conceit.

Also, true love by definition is acting for the supreme good of others which I think is impossible in our human condition with our limited knowledge. Before the fall recorded in Genesis 1, we had a full knowledge of moral standards that are good and perfect due to our relationship with God and were able to love God and others well. But as recorded in Genesis 3, after the fall, when we decided to choose our own moral standards, our own definitions of good and evil, we are no longer able to know what is good for others and so unable to love perfectly. Knowledge of absolute morality is necessary ingredient for true love which is found only in relationship with God our Creator.

Even after restoring our relationship with God in Jesus, it is still difficult to love well, even as a Christian until we understand things in full one day! The difference is we can humbly recognize our inability to love fully and acknowledge our need for an all-knowing and loving God and His sacrifice. Our faith allows us to give grace to others knowing that the root of evil is the same in everyone.

In my own life, I had to learn what it means to live in grace toward myself and others with confidence in God’s righteousness only through difficult experiences. Without the vertical relationship, its hard to persist in a relationship in love with difficult people. With faith in God, we have the motivation and hope. The Christian message is therefore unique. It allows for unity through humbling ourselves rather than being driven by mere determination or an individual spiritual pursuit.

What a great question corresponding to the greatest commandment given by Jesus. May the Holy Sprit’s guidance be with you as you think through this question. God bless!

(C Rhodes) #4

@chandrakishore. Just wanted to add to this wonderful conversation, from a lesson I am currently learning. To avoid making relationships with others be about my need, I must have a relationship with JESUS. The relationship with GOD is the primary relationship.

It is that primary relationship that makes me a benefit to all my other relationships. It is the relationship that promises to expose and display the very best I can be. I can accomplish that by the Grace of the Lord. Anything less is just that, less.

That may not reduce me to living without love or gratification, and it may be possible for me to see GOD’s face in peace. But it does mean settling, short-changing my life.

Scripture puts it most succinctly, " But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. For me, that is code for healing my world by healing myself through JESUS.

I believe when it is right with GOD; it cast a brillance upon all other relationships. In that brilliance, I am able to love and forgive as JESUS does. I see all of life from the perspective of the Agape heart. Knowing this has caused me to seek solutions from GOD then with others. It certainly removes the stress of accomplishment and acquiring.

(chandra kishore sardar) #5

Thank you @SeanO for your insights. The Golden rule is indeed such an eye opener and its uniqueness exceeds all other philosophies that are based on "give and take ".
How would you try to explain to an atheist about the uniqueness of love of Christ to whom the “give and take” philosophy of love is reasonable?

(chandra kishore sardar) #6

Thank you @cer7 for taking time to answer. I agree with you and infact i can relate to what you have said completely. I have tried couple of times working up that ‘love’ inside me to love others but could do only so much. But each time when i ponder the love of Christ that is so unconditional so abounding so agape i can only respond in love to others.

(chandra kishore sardar) #7

That is sucha brillant way of looking at the human malady and unability to love with the love of God.

Thats incredibly stated. Thank you @Lakshmismehta for those just mindboggling insights. Loved it !!

(SeanO) #8

@chandrakishore That would depend on why the ‘give and take’ was reasonable to them. Is that just because they are cynical that selfless love really exists? If so, you could share examples of Christians throughout history who laid down their lives for others and discuss the difference that it made in those communities - like when D. L. Moody ministered to kids in ‘little hell’ in Chicago - a place no one wanted to go. Or ask questions like:

Don’t you want selfless love to exist? Do you think it does exist?

What do you think of Jesus’ sacrifice? Is that an example of selfless love?

It would really depend on how the conversation went and what they said where I would go next.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #9

@chandrakishore, so glad it was helpful. It is indeed mind boggling to understand how truth and love come together in the person of Jesus Christ. There is so much to meditate on in understanding Jesus’s claim as the way, the truth and the life both for now and eternity and how it ties into the greatest commandment.

(chandra kishore sardar) #10

Those are some really intriguingly fascinating questions to ask and i beleive they really make a lot of sense.
As i was looking up in the internet, i found this internet website post by Dr. Taylor Marshall very helpul in understanding the distinction of explanation of love by science and God.
And in the comments section i found a materialist guy asking several questions and one that stood out for me was :

" I’m not entirely sure I understand your point. You posit the existence of a nonmaterial/spiritual plane, and seem to believe that it’s superior to the physical plane in some way. But you don’t explain why it’s preferable that emotions join these two planes. Is the physical plane faulty or impure in some way? Would you cease to believe in love if it weren’t magic?"

How would you respond to it ?

(SeanO) #11

@chandrakishore I think this particular comment misunderstands the nature of Christian love. Christ love is anything but magic - it is our cultures view of love that is ‘magic’. Think about the possible motivations for love:

  1. Love is nothing more than a biochemical reaction in your body that produces a particular feeling towards other individuals
  2. Love is nothing more than collective group dynamics that are the product of evolutionary sociology and biology
  3. Love is a mystical force - like ‘the force’ in Star Wars - I assume this is what he means by magical
  4. Love is sacrificial love for others and obedience to God as a response to the great love God showed us by sending His Son - this is Christian love

1/2 are meaningless - if love is nothing but a biochemical reaction or consequence of social dynamics then there is objectively no reason to prefer love over hate. In fact, you could argue as Nietzsche did that we should, as we grow in intelligence, overcome our baser instincts and move towards the evolutionary ‘superman’.

3 is what the comment seems to refer to - love as a mystical force. Admittedly there are people who talk this way - and I agree this is not a valid position.

4 is the only rational reason for love to be ultimate. God Himself is love and our love for Him and others is a response to His love for us. This love is not rooted in a mystical force or in feelings produced by chemical reactions, but in God’s own demonstration of love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. What could be more down to earth and practical than that???

(chandra kishore sardar) #12

I just have a little follow up question on this one which might be a bit silly or stupid but i will just shoot it. Grant me some grace.
Well! Why cant one prefer love over hate if only he can just learn the outcome of love objectively which will certainly be superior and better than hate in any circumstances ?

(SeanO) #13

@chandrakishore Good question! How do you know that love has a better outcome than hate or being a bully? How do you measure that? Why does it matter if we look out for the weak and vulnerable?

As a Christian we know that God Himself cares for the poor and downtrodden and has loved us in our sin. But without God there is no objective reason to care for those in need. And before Jesus that was not the way the world worked. We in the West have inherited these values from Christ - not from evolution.

Lots of dictators are bullies and have lots of stuff - big houses, lots of money, an army… From a purely evolutionary perspective they are on the top of the food chain.

Nietzsche recognized this problem and acknowledged openly that rejecting God resulted in a void - the end of good and evil. Nothing is left of love - or of good - or of evil. Just the ‘will to power’ - to dominate others.

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome. Nietzsche

“And how could there be a “common good”! The expression contradicts itself; that which can be common is always of small value.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“Where the populace eat and drink, and even where they reverence, it is accustomed to stink. One should not go into churches if one wishes to breathe PURE air.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil