COMMANDED TO LOVE?

A scholar of the law tested Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


                                                                                                Mt 22:34-39


How can we be commanded to love?  Isn’t love a feeling, either you have it or you don’t?  How can God order us to love?

Similarly, how can newlyweds promise: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”?  How does the groom know how he will feel about the bride in a year?  How can the bride know how she will feel towards the groom in five years?  How do they know how they will feel about each other after twenty years?  How can they promise to love each other, til death do them part?

The answer lies in the fact that genuine love goes deeper than feelings alone.  True love involves the will.  It is a willingness to care, to be responsible, to belong.

When a six month old baby cries to be changed at three in the afternoon, the parents’ feelings for their child make it easier for them to do what otherwise might be a repugnant task.  But  if that same infant cries out to be changed at three a.m. on a cold winter’s night, the last thing in the world the parents feel like doing is getting out of that warm bed to tend to the child’s needs.  The parents feel like telling the child: “Go back to sleep.  I’ll change you in the morning.”  But the parents get out of bed and care for the child because they are willing to be responsible for the child, to belong to their child, whether they feel like it nor not.

God made us in such a way that doing kind things for someone generally increases our positive feelings for that person.  And the positive feelings we have make it easier to perform loving actions for that person.  Our loving is meant to be an ascending spiral: positive feelings lead to positive actions leads to increased positive feelings....

When newlyweds promise themselves to each other, they are agreeing to be responsible for one another, to belong to each other, to be “next of kin” for each other.  They are willing to become one with each other, to share all that they have and are with each other all the days of their lives.

When I was a teenager I remember asking myself: Am I really supposed to love everybody?  I don’t even like some people, how am I supposed to love them?

The great commandment does not order us to like everybody.  There are some people we like, and some we don’t.  We are free to choose our friends.  But we are expected to love everybody, to will good for everyone, to be friendly to all.  We are not obliged to like everyone, but we are commanded to treat them with love.

Ronald Stanley, O.P.