Love One Another.
Jesus gives us a command to love one another (John 13:34). No one ever challenges this imperative. No one ever says that it is outdated or unrealistic. Yet, it seems that it is the most difficult command of Jesus to fulfill. In Fact, Sigmund Freud observed: “The commandment is impossible to fulfill…Civilization pays no attention to all this; it merely admonishes us that the harder it is to obey the precept the more meritorious it is to do so. But anyone who follows such a precept in present-day civilization only puts himself at a disadvantage.” (Civilization and It’s Discontents) Love is risky, especially the kind of love the gospel commands. It is radical, counter-cultural, and does call for a certain vulnerability. Here, Jesus tells us to love one another, elsewhere we are commanded to Love our neighbor, (Matthew 7:12;Luke 6:31) without qualification.
According to to St. Thomas Aquinas, love is friendship based on the virtuous, extends to sinners, whom, out of charity, we love for God’s sake. We are called to be a friend to all, to extend our hand to all, even if it means making us vulnerable. This means, that one should be able to place any adjective in front of the object of love, which is our neighbor, and that any adjective makes the command no less imperative. For example, I have seen in t-shirts and internet memes the following: “Love Thy Neighbor; Thy Homeless Neighbor; Thy Muslim Neighbor; Thy Black Neighbor; Thy Gay Neighbor; Thy Immigrant Neighbor ; Thy Jewish Neighbor; Thy Christian Neighbor; Thy Atheist Neighbor; Thy Addicted Neighbor” A few more could be added: “Thy Republican Neighbor; Thy Democrat Neighbor; Thy Aggravating Neighbor; Thy Non-English-Speaking Neighbor; Thy Rude Neighbor; Thy Young Neighbor; Thy Old Neighbor; Thy Handicapped Neighbor; Thy Educated Neighbor; Thy Ignorant Neighbor. The list goes on and on.
The bottom line is that we love. Not because the other deserves our love but because God, who while we were sinners, loved us. Loving someone does not mean we have to agree with them. It doesn’t even mean that we accept the logic of their position, it means that despite our differences, I extend my hand to them in kindness and treat them the way I would want to be treated.
Freud was right. This is impossible, without God’s grace. But with his grace, all is possible as we learn to love from the one who has first Loved us.