A Sketch of a Christian Ethic of Love – Pt. 2 – Critiques Answered

(1)’When I think about the life that Jesus had, I think that the actions and miracles he performed were more than just half-hearted acts of charity. I think that He loved everyone in a way that none of us have been able to ascend to. When I drive down the road, my heart isn’t bursting in love for everyone I see. In fact, if I’m on the road, most of feeling towards other drivers are anything but loving. I cannot fathom the depth because I am unable, but to have such a heart for everyone must have been overwhelming. The “acts of charity” that he committed I think were just a side-effect of the love that he carried(s) for everybody. So they were not just charitable moments, they were genuine. 

Let’s go with your example, say God is telling you someway that a certain homeless man/woman needs ten bucks. But you aren’t willing to do it, not for any particular reason, you just don’t feel like giving this person ten dollars. Well, since you know what happens when people disobey God and it’s not good, you pull over, grumble as you dig the ten bucks out of your pocket, and then wave the guy off as he accepts it. Ok, yea, you did what God said, you paid your dues, and because you did it, His plan for that person may be able to be carried out because of your obedience. But as for you, I can imagine that whatever blessing God may have had for you if you had done it with a more willing heart may become void. ‘

(2)’Charity with a bad attitude is not accepted by Christ, He wants only those with pure intentions.’

Both of these criticisms I grant as being accurate – however, my point in my initial sketch was to show that there love can indeed be love, even if it is commanded and hence not freely chosen. Here I will attempt to incorporate both of these legitimate thoughts into my ethical project.

It is plain from reading the Scriptures that attitude does count for something when deeds of charity are performed – theological reasons aside, it’s simply common sense that one would rather have someone perform a commanded task with a good attitude rather than a combative one.  Here we will attempt to see just what place our feelings and attitude have in ethic I’m formulating. A few texts dealing with attitude:

1 Peter 3:8

‘Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.’

Romans 12:10

‘Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.’

Ephesians 4:31

‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking,
be put away from you, with all malice.’

1 Corinthians 13:2

‘ If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.’

The theme in these verses is a simple one, and one that is reiterated throughout the entire Bible – without love as a motivator, even the best behavior counts for nothing.

A few other thoughts come to mind. Love does obviously have more than one definition – it means more than agape. It does mean affection – fond feelings for one another. But feelings alone don’t mean much – one can say they love you, but if they simply assert that with no action, it is quickly dismissed as mere talk.

A rough outline of an ethic of love could be as follows:

1. Love implies action – simply stating that one has nice feelings for someone doesn’t cut it.

2. Charity can be commanded – but if it is done out of an attitude of pure obligation, then it is simply robotic commands being obeyed. There has to be more to it than simply obeying orders – there must be a genuine desire to do good.

It is (2) that presents a difficulty. Most people do nice things out of a genuine desire to do good – but few people would say that that desire is present at all times. And yet, a Christian is called to never stop serving others – a Christian is a slave to Christ, and slaves don’t stop serving. Obviously, this can be difficult -I certainly don’t feel like being charitable every single moment of the day. I know I should be – and often times I have performed acts of charity out of pure obligation. Well and good – except it should not be out of pure obligation. I should genuinely want to serve others, without the thought of ‘Well, I’m a Christian, so I guess I HAVE to do this,’ as my primary motive. Otherwise, my act of charity, while better than none, doesn’t count for a whole lot.

Well, that’s all very good – but the real question now is how can I want to serve at all times? If I make myself want to do something, that’s not really being loving – it’s just obligation. On my own, I won’t be able to live a life of loving, joyful servant-hood. I can’t do it alone.

However – to paraphrase John Wesley: ‘Man is depraved, but man is not alone!’




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