Love and Be Loved!

Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

But he [the law expert] wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

Jesus, in response to the law expert relates the Parable of the Good Samaritan and then asks him who he considers to be the neighbour of the man who fell amongst thieves, to which the expert replies ‘the one who had mercy on him’. Jesus replies that he has answered correctly and that the expert should live his life accordingly.

In the story Jesus contrasts the behaviour of the Samaritan (a man from Samaria) with that of the Levite (a descendent of Levi who was an inferior priest of the ancient Jewish Church) and a priest both of whom declined to come near the man lying injured in the Jerusalem-to-Jericho road. It is the action of the Samaritan who ‘nears’ the injured man and who has mercy on him that defines him as his neighbour in the parable. But the parable also demonstrates his love for the injured man. It does not matter whether the man lying there in the road is a Levite, a religious person or even a robber, he’s still deserving of the Samaritan’s love purely and simple because he’s his neighbour; he’s ‘near’ him at this particular instant in time, and needs his love. The priest and the Levite remain remote and aloof from the dying man and pass by on the other side of the road.

We are not told whether the injured man was a Levite or a Jew. We can only surmise that for the two who refused to help him this was an issue but for the Samaritan this was not important. He could have been black, rich, poor, non-believing or, for that matter, homosexual. It doesn’t matter one iota. The Samaritan’s love is unconditional. The parable itself is only concerned with physical help for the injured man but the underlying issue is ‘loving with the heart and soul and mind with all the strength you possess. The parable says nothing about the object of our love deserving it. It says nothing about our love being conditional. In fact the opposite seems to be the case. Our love is to be spontaneous and without reservation.

Throughout human history such has been the love of one human being for another, but not without protest from the men of power, be it Church or State. White men have fallen in love with black women, poor men with rich women and visa versa. Protestants have fallen in love with Catholics and Baptists with Methodists. Either the Church or the authorities or both have protested but in the end it is ‘love’ that has prevailed. Now it is the turn of men falling in love with men, and women with women. In the end the Church will have to stop dragging its feet over same-sex marriage. God will be the final judge over these relationships not man.

Some of my friends have recently been to see the film ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ They had heard that it was about cowboy sex. They were disappointed. But the film isn’t really about sex. It’s about the love of one man for another and their willingness to put their marriages at risk in pursuit of that love among other things. Isn’t this continual focusing on sex an abrogation of real love? The sexual act lasts a few minutes at most and even though it can be repeated several times in a day it still remains a small fraction of the total time in a person’s life. Love is so much more. It’s taking care of each other, and being responsible for another person’s welfare through a whole life. The opposite of love is loneliness and egocentrism. We need to express our love, physically and mentally, and receive the love of others. Love and be loved!

Being gay is not about whom one has sex with; it’s about whom one loves. We should never lose sight of what is the most important aspect of our being. To some extent we can regulate who we have sex with but who we fall in love with seems to cross the barriers of race and creed and also sexual orientation eluding our control. Indeed there are so many instances in history of human beings initially hating each other but, despite attempts to the contrary, they have ended up loving one another.

In Luke 10 Jesus is asked by the law expert what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus answers by telling him to love God, himself and his neighbour. The ‘neighbour’ in this case is the injured man lying in the road. The importance of this universal love that Jesus talks about is illustrated again in verse 37 of Mathew 22. Here He repeats His plea to love one another but He qualifies it by saying that these are the two ‘great’ commandments on which “All the Law and the Prophets hang on.” When the Religious Right quote from the Bible condemning homosexuality one seldom hears, if ever, that they mention what is the basis of the law on which their Christianity should depend.

We are never going to get to grips with problems like homosexuality, gay marriage, women priests and gay bishops etc. until we stop talking about sex and start talking about LOVE.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.

(I Corinthians 13:4-7, 13)