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The notion of “Agape” doesn’t come naturally

And while I’m on the subject, a radio talk show caller not so long ago ventured to suggest that all would be right with American society if only people would love each other a bit more.

It’s hard to quarrel with that. Clearly, if drug dealers loved addicts a bit more they wouldn’t enslave them with narcotics. If muggers loved their victims a bit more they wouldn’t rob and maim and kill them.

And if, for that matter, If rioters loved their neighbors a bit more they wouldn’t burn their homes and pillage their property. And so ad infinitum.

There is, however, nothing profound about this thought. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that loving each other a bit more is the answer to almost all society’s ills—at least those that aren’t occasioned by accident or infirmity.

The problem is not identifying the problem. If that’s all there was to it, the Flower Children would have solved things back in the 1960s.

Trouble is that while we know things would be very much better if we all did love people a bit more, the sad fact of the matter is that we don’t love each other even the tiniest bit more. These days it seems that we love each other an awful lot less.

Nor should we find this entirely surprising. There is nothing very natural about people loving other people in a generic sense—beyond our immediate relatives and, perhaps, the folks in our own social circle. As for the wider world, however, most of its inhabitants are definitely suspect.

So where does this notion that we should all love one another come from? The answer is that Jesus commanded his followers to love their fellow men as much as they love themselves.

candy distribution

Migrant children receive candies from a volunteer while waiting for transportaton to emergency shelters after they and other migrants from Central America were dropped of at a bus station by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in El Paso, Texas, U.S. December 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo. From Reuters.

But the fact that Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors is a sure indication that loving people outside our immediate circle of family and friends does not come naturally or easily. If it came naturally he wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. If it came easily, he wouldn’t have made such a big deal about it.

The fact that Jesus wants us to love our fellow men sets things straight as far as Christians are concerned. But the talk show caller was not a Christian. Indeed, she spoke disparagingly of Christians as she was making her point.

It is something of a paradox that so many non-Christians subscribe to the notion that it is natural for people to love one another. How could they possibly have gotten such a bizarre idea? After all, there is nothing, for example, in evolutionary theory to lead them to believe it to be so. It certainly runs contrary to the course of the history of the 20th century.

Nor does the concept of altruistic love as a natural phenomenon square with a general rejection of moral absolutes or the adoption of “situation ethics.” The idea that there are no moral absolutes and that ethics change according to the situation is the rationale for treating some people in less fairly than others. Actually, such thinking engenders feelings quite the opposite of love in that it permits us to put our own interests above those of others.

How can it be, then, that so many non-Christians subscribe to the idea that it is natural for people to love one another when, in fact, such a concept runs counter to all they believe?

Nobody, however, should be surprised that, as Christianity is driven further and further from the public square, we are loving each other less not more. GPH+

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