We can understand the values of a culture by looking at its habits, behaviors, processes and practices. As believers, our goal in life is to constantly be growing in Christlike Character – to be transformed into the likeness of the personhood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22 that the greatest command is to “love God” and “love Others.” The measure of mature spirituality is love, humility, and approachability, not gifts, power, or success. There are many well meaning people who claim to hold certain truths, however the manner in which they carry them out is counterproductive and says something opposite their values.
Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men/women, his love is not love but symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged ego. Yet most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty.
In fact, they even believe that it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the “loved” person. This is the same fallacy which I’ve already mentioned above. Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object – and that everything goes by itself afterward.
This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, insists on waiting for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it.
The most fundamental kind of love, which underlies all types of love is brotherly love. By this I mean the sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being, and the wish to further his life. This is what the Bible speaks of when it says to love thy neighbor as thyself. Brotherly love means to have a love for all human beings – not just the ones who you like.
Brotherly love is characterized by its very lack of exclusiveness. If I have developed the capacity for love, then I cannot help loving my brothers and sisters in Christ. In brotherly love there is the experience of union with all men as well as human solidarity and human atonement. The differences in talents, intelligence, knowledge, skills and social status are negligible in comparison with the God-given identity of the human core. This relatedness from center to center, instead of periphery to periphery, is how we connect to the heart.
This ability to love others is entirely dependent on the depth and maturity of the individual. It’s so easy to love someone who is just like you, isn’t it? Someone who likes the same food, clothes, shops, shows, books, and has the same sense of humor? But oh how growth-producing and heart-enlarging it is when God places someone who is “challenging” in your life!
Even animals love their young and care for them. The helpless one loves his master, since his life depends on him; the child loves his parents, since he needs them. But Godly love is displayed when you show love to those who do not serve you any purpose. Those who have nothing to give you.
When you have compassion for the helpless one, the stranger, widow and orphan – all of these are outwards expressions of the inner character of the heart.
The fact is, everything you do in life sends a message. May your life be a living testimony of love, acceptance, mercy and grace so that others may be drawn into a redemptive relationship with our Creator.
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.