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by Nessie
Rated: E · Essay · Religious · #2270698
A few thoughts about the meaning of love in a Christian point of view.

Did Saint Francis of Assisi love the malnourished, outcast lepers before Our Lady appeared to him? If this is not the case, what caused this spoilt, vain son of a merchant to consort with these "unclean", to speak to them with humility and call them "my brothers."

Watching BBC News, it is rare to see any feelings or actions of friendship, amity or love, that it asked for from us as God's children. There is certainly no turning your other cheek business. Anyone's heart would sink as they read about yet another stabbing in London, a case of anti semitism, abuse of a black man, assault, to mention but a few. There is no loving your neighbour as yourself there. Sometimes it's hard to even like another person, other than a relative or friend, especially if you know that person does not like you, or even hates you. I mean, how can you love, let alone tolerate, the murderer of your sister? It seems utterly impossible. But Jesus found it possible. He loved his murderers, the ones who hammered those nails into his hands, and his heart: us. Surely, we can follow his example and begin to soften our hearts towards the serial killer, the thief, and the rapist. Possibly you are thinking that is a ludicrous, unnatural thing to do. Maybe you consider that a criminal deserves a life sentence in prison. "It is justice for the victim", you might say, "he deserves it". You wouldn't be wrong but neither would you be right. People with a Christian ethos will know that in the end only God can completely judge us for what we do.

What is the meaning of love? According to the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary love is to have "a strong feeling of affection". According to the Youcat, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, "love is the free self-giving of the heart". It's easy to give your heart to your parents, siblings and friends. It is not a trial to have a strong affection for your spouse and child. But what about that person you've never spoken to three doors down? Or the postman, the bin man and the gardener?

My old parish priest once said that for us to follow the second commandment: "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself", we need to be able to follow the first: "Thou shall love thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with their whole strength." We must be able to love God, our Saviour, both as a divine power and as a full flesh man born of woman. These two fundamental commandments came in their order for specific reason. We need to understand God as a human, just like us, with feelings of pain, sorrow and joy, before we can even contemplate the meaning of loving our neighbour. With a personal relationship with God, this spiritual desire will find and strengthen our desire to do good unto others. We are not simply here for us and our interests, not for "me, myself and I", but we have been created for others. We have a duty and that is to look out for other people: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the homeless, the sick and the dead, as outlined in the Seven Corporal works of mercy - acts of love that comes from the heart to help our neighbour in his bodily needs. Even as it says in Inspector Calls by JB Priestley: "We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." And having God in our hearts, knowing that his love surpasses all love, will power our own love for mankind. To understand what love is, we must understand the meaning, and the only way we can really do that is by knowing God, because God is love.

So, we can clarify that despite the morbid news about hate, death and crime, that there are people that through their actions, do love their neighbour. Who are these people? Saint Francis of Assisi should answer that. As a young man, he was drunk to as the King of the Revels, dressed in very rich clothes and, he turned away in disgust from the lepers. But he was yet to be a great Christian, for he turned with a full heart back to those lepers, after a beautiful woman, Our Lady, appeared before him. Through his love for God and the Lady of Poverty, he found happiness by giving up family and fortune to devote his life to God and his poor. Only through God did he find love, and not just love for his Saviour, but love for others.

Another question following on from who these people are, is a more personal question: how can I, how can you, show your love through your actions? There are many examples, from high profile, low profile and unspoken for people. For example, Princess Anne, has done a lot of work of visiting prisons, doing charity work revolving around people with disabilities, science, sport and health in developing countries. In 1990, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the president of Save the Children said, "she loves people". There was David Amess, RIP, who supported animal welfare, opposed abortion and was knighted for political and public service. Or even six year old Tony Hudgell who, inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, RIP, walked every day in June on his prosthetic legs to raise more than a million pounds for his hospital. There are many ways to show your love: donating to charity, helping the disabled, running groups for less fortunate, or even just thanking the surgeon who saved your life.

You don't have to be a Christian to know that we must help others. We can thank the nurses, the doctors, the NHS for their work in saving lives. We can thank the teachers for educating our children. We can thank taxi drivers, barristers, shop owners, coaches, carers, parents, grandparents and even the lollipop lady. Many of these believe in God but many do not. We should all love each other no matter what our beliefs. Everyone need love and in a Christian's point of view the central place you can find that is from God. Put it like this: if everyone loved each other the world would be perfect. There would be no jealousy, hate or disorder: just simple harmony.

So how can we make this world better? Set the example of forgiving our wrong-doers, and with your whole heart sincerely helping your neighbour. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. And after all, we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Following the second commandment is a lot easier if we completely submit ourselves to the will of God. Even if it is impossible to believe in a God, just look at the men and women wrapped in sleeping bags, shivering in the icy winter wind, and think "surely I can help them?" And then look at their faces as they smile gratefully up at you, as you buy them a steaming hot chocolate. Surely that smile is worth your money, your time, your love?

Only through love can we make this world better.


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