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Love as (Perhaps) a First Principle

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” ( John 5: 20 ) Not only do we notice the love of the three persons of the Trinity for one another and the love between the Father and the Son as expressed during the Son’s earthly ministry, then, but we also notice it expands into an important theme in Christology. We see further evidence of this in Jesus’ statements that He loves His disciples, and that the Father loves them, too, for example, where He says, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from the Father. ” ( John 16: 27 ) Does it look like we have some connections? What about the Incarnation and the Passion? Well, let’s consider John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. ” This verse declares that the Father’s love for us is the reason for the Incarnation. As for the Passion, Christ says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” ( John 15: 13 ) – so love also explains voluntary submission to crucifixion.

A connection between our love for God and our love for others is given, not by Jesus Himself, but by a lawyer who questions Him. The lawyer asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? ” ( Luke 10: 25 ) Jesus asks him what the law tells him. The lawyer responds with a summary of the law, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. ” ( Luke 10: 27 ) When he goes on to ask who his neighbor is, Jesus recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable tells us that we should love anyone in need.

One of the accounts of the Last Judgment gives us the sort of thing we always wanted when we were in school. That is, Jesus tells us what the questions will be which will appear on the final exam. In other words, He informs us that our salvation depends on the degree to which we practice unselfish love: Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. ” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee? ” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me. ” ( Matthew 25: 34-40 ) Jesus posits love, then, as the foundation of Christian social ethics. Elsewhere He extends love’s requirements to a demand that we love others whether they love us or not: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ( Matthew 5: 43-8 ) By requiring that we grow toward the same perfection in love of others as He and the Father have for us, Jesus lays out a spiritual path for us. As we open ourselves to God’s love and at the same time love even those who do not love us, we become by grace what God is by nature.
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