|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 3/31/2020
|Topics/Keywords: #Spirituality||Page Views: 3213|
|Let's examine the concept of Love.|
What's the big deal about "love"?
Al Capone once said, "You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun."
On the other hand, Capone—nicknamed "Scarface", so maybe his smiles weren't quite the success he claimed them to be—eventually died in prison from complications from syphilis. So let's accept him as one of those people whose service is to be a warning to others and examine alternatives to a "smile and a gun."
I propose love. Specifically, the type known as unconditional love, which the Greeks called agape and the Romans called caritas, and which is so beautifully described in the Bible by Paul of Tarsus, usually my least favorite author but in this case, he done good.
The specific passage, if you want to look it up, is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. In the King James version (translation completed in 1611), it reads,
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
That phrasing caught my attention 'way back in high school, where I found the words "puffed up" to be delightfully and prominently conversational by comparison to all the "seekeths" and "rejoiceths". The rest of the passage didn't really impress me, however, because I was used to the 20th century use of the word "charity" and the whole thing seemed to be a reference to donating money (a not-infrequent topic in Catholic high school).
However, the word translated here as "charity" is the Greek word agape (uh GOPP ay) which actually means unconditional love, as in the sentence "God is Love" (in Latin, Deus caritas est). This is the kind of love a parent is expected to have for his or her child, or that a child might have for his or her puppy.
However, unconditional love, by definition, must not be limited to any specific condition, which means that it must not be limited to any particular person or group. Any adherent to the Bible, or anyone seeking enlightenment, must love all unconditionally: Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, male and female and transgendered and asexual, Republican and Democrat, rock star and pastor, G W Bush as well as Mother Theresa.
Thus, the more modern New Living Translation, which uses a combination of word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation, better expresses the original intent of the author in contemporary, readable English:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
Ah, now we have a brief treatise on Love that is both profound and useful! It serves as a definition of Love as well as a road map of how a person who wishes to Love should behave.
This is valuable because unconditional love is a key to raising one's quantum frequency, which in turn results in improved health, general happiness, and other cool effects.
So let's look briefly at each of the points Paul of Tarsus presents.
When one loves unconditionally, one doesn't demand anything in particular from the object of that love. Sure, we want our kids or neighbors to do well and we might have an idea of what that consists. But if our love hinges on those kids or neighbors agreeing with our ideas, it is not unconditional and, in fact, is not love at all: It is merely the selfish expression if a desire to be validated by others.
No matter what we think our motives are, if it causes us to be cruel, it isn't love. Period. No one truly practicing love would ever picket a funeral or bomb an abortion clinic, no matter how strongly he or she felt about conveying a message.
When a person practices agape, he or she does not feel a need to possess the love or mind or heart of another. Sometimes we feel more strongly about someone than they feel about us; but if what we feel is unconditional love, we will always be there for that person, if they ever need us, and even if they never do.
A person who truly practices agape doesn't feel the need to broadcast that fact. How annoying is the mantra of some Fundamentalists who say, "I love the sinner, not the sin." How smug can you get? But this is not what the Bible recommends at all, starting with the judging of another person to be a "sinner" and ending with the implication that the speaker is superior in some way to the other.
In reality, while we are all fellow travelers on this ball we call Earth we nevertheless each walk a unique path. So no one can really claim to be superior or more "enlightened" than anyone else. The homeless person or Wall Street CEO might well be further along his or her path than you…there's no way to tell. But even if they are, you are still where you should be as long as you keep trying for self-improvement.
Aunt Eller in Oklahoma said it best: "I ain't sayin' that I'm better than anybody else, but I'll be danged if I ain't just as good!"
Hey, we all have rough days. But as a person seeking enlightenment, you will want to work especially hard at having a smile for everyone—and especially waitresses who get your order wrong, commuters who steal your taxi, cashiers who miscount your change and stock clerks who aren't sure where their own merchandise is located. Why? Because they are probably having a tough day of their own.
Besides, nothing has ever been gained by reaming out a new one for a person who has provided a service you deem inadequate.
Do you believe all marriages should be monogamous, or between one man and one woman? That humanity begins in the womb? That war is wrong, or that it's necessary? That's fine for you, but if you would love unconditionally you must grant others the freedom to follow their own consciences as you want to follow yours. Certainly, communicate your point of view when asked! Learn to be as clear and accurate as possible so as to make the best case for your cause. But if you practice agape, you can not demand that others do as you deem best. (And it's cheating to claim that you are demanding what God deems best; because others interpret Scriptures differently. And if God chose to be ambiguous, perhaps you should, too!)
This is the other side of the "Love is not rude" coin. Others may be rude. Let them. You can't control how other people behave, but you can control how you react to that behavior. You can let yourself get annoyed, or you can choose to keep cool and sympathetic. The later is the behavior of a person who has mastered agape.
This can be a tricky one, because it implies blind dismissal of danger. But I don't believe that's what it means. Certainly, it means unconditional forgiveness—which is the kind that never says later, "You know, I forgave you for that thing you did to me 15 years ago, so you should forgive me for this." But I don't believe it means intentionally placing yourself in the path of danger. You can forgive the sniper without remaining in front of his or her rifle.
When liars and manipulators are exposed, it's natural for those who love truth to exult. Just be certain your happiness is that the truth has been revealed, rather than gloating over the liars receiving their comeuppance.
Especially in these days of economic downturn, changing social mores and universal brouhaha, it can be a challenge to keep a positive outlook. But unconditional love demands that you never discount that wayward child, challenging neighbor or crotchety parent. If you always envision them at their highest potential, they may someday live up to it. Remember, it's not your place to define what that potential looks like! Just realize that the people you love are unlikely to exceed your under-expectations. Give them a high bar and then allow them the dignity to reach it, or not, on their own. And love them, regardless.
The teaching attributed to Jesus is "Turn the other cheek." To master agape you must be resigned to love the murderer pulling the trigger, the liar besmirching your reputation, the thief who's stolen your identity. That doesn't mean you can't defend yourself if possible, but you must do it with love for the perpetrator if you are to live a life of agape.
And this applies even when it's someone you are close to who's been murdered, or besmirched, or financially wiped out…if not more so.
Once upon a time, making accurate predictions and speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and even things such as knowing which herbs to ingest for medicinal purposes were definitely ways to get attention. But that only works when people don't practice unconditional love, and therefore are willing to judge the prophet as different; holier than them, or less so. (Prophets are burnt at the stake more often than they are raised to high station.) This portion of the verse isn't predicting an end to special abilities, just that they will become useless as methods of attracting or manipulating people.
The fact is, prophecy and "special knowledge" are actually available to everyone, and frequency-raising agape is the key to unlocking these abilities in oneself.
As one's frequency rises, one's awareness of the illusions presented by life-on-earth become more apparent. The primary illusion afflicting us is that of "death". Thus, in a real sense, mastering agape is the key to immortality. Love does last forever!