The Initiation of Love
To really appreciate the manifestation of Love which was initiated by the Christ, one has to realize how different the viewpoints, attitudes and group thinking was toward love 2000 years ago. Before Jesus came on the scene the world had no great example of love as a ideal from which to pattern their lives.
There were prophets and teachers past who urged people to live good lives, to respect their fellow humans and some even encouraged harmlessness toward all life, but none presented the spiritual ideal as did Christ. None kindled the burning fire of spiritual love in its fullness as did Jesus.
There are many teachers in the religious world who are preaching the idea that we live in the most wicked era in the history of the world, but such is not the case. The goodness of the people in this age and their civility toward others is much higher now than it was 2000 years ago, and this is due in large measure to the few words spoken by Jesus which have partially permeated human consciousness.
Let us compare the actions of humanity today and the days of Jesus.
2000 years ago a large portion of the population were slaves. Few at that time could even envision a time when all people would be free.
Today: Slavery is virtually unheard of in the civilized world.
While we have not completely eliminated war, it is to be noted that the approach to war and victory is much different today than it was in ancient times.
Then: When a battle or war was won the victor did not keep prisoners and later release them to the defeated enemy. The captives were usually put to death and often in an horrific manner. They were often tortured for amusement and after this had their head put on a stick and displayed.
Not only were conquered soldiers put to death, but men, women and children were often totally annihilated. The Greek city of Carthage is a good example. Shortly before the days of Jesus 550,000 men women and children were completely destroyed on a whim by Rome merely because they posed a potential threat to Rome. And this was not because of a decree of a mad emperor, but by a vote put through the Roman Senate.
In those days if a child or female of an enemy was allowed to live it was either as a slave or for sexual gratification.
Now: War is still hell, but when a war is won in this age the civilized nations are often quite gracious to the defeated ones. A great example is that the United States virtually supplied the money and power to rebuild Japan after World War II and all the defeated nations were allowed by the United States and Western Europe to rebuild and maintain their own government.
Such graciousness was unheard of in ancient times.
Then too the torturing of the enemy and mass slaying of women and children is unheard of by the more civilized nations today
.(3) Human Relations.
We think people are selfish today, but 2000 years ago selfishness was much more rampant. People often had children, not out of nurturing love, but because of their usefulness as child laborers. Men often got married for the same reason – not out of love but because the guy needed an unpaid laborer in the family business. When the family income was too low a kid was often sold into slavery to pay the bills.
If a child was born retarded or handicapped he was often discretely disposed of and no one asked any questions about the missing kid.
We are probably most familiar with the entertainment of the past because of movies such as Gladiator, Ben Hur, Spartacus and so on. It was common sport for the people to watch gladiators kill each other.
We could go on but it is very obvious that humanity has made much progress in these three areas and indeed the world of Jesus’ day was much more ruthless than we are today.
In the midst of this cruel atmosphere appeared the Christ with a message of love and hope with words such as:
“A new commandment I give unto you – that you love one another.”
To love one another may seem like old words today, but at that time they were new and fresh.
The love he taught included more than family and friends for he said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he went on to explain that even those considered the enemy are our neighbors.
Then he explained that if we love only those who love us we are no better than publicans and sinners. Instead we must love all people.
He not only taught about love, but demonstrated it. He worked tirelessly in healing the sick, the lame, the blind and outcasts of society. He gave his life in service and apparently received no money for it. “Freely I give,” he said.
Near the end he said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
His sacrifice on the cross was far from his only display of love, but that, along with his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane were certainly two examples that permeated the consciousness of mankind and has stayed there.
Many there are who minimize the effect of the life of Christ by complaining of the wars fought in his name, but one must look at the overall picture rather than isolated anecdotal evidence.
The world is a much better place today, however imperfect it is, because of the simple teachings and example of this Son of God.
May we all seek to do even “greater things” while always realizing the powerful initiation into love which he brought to the world.
There are al least two degrees of what the world calls love today.
The first is a lower love with selfishness attached and the second is the love brought by Christ – a spiritual unselfish love.
Contemplate on these two forms of love and the difference between them for future discussion.
April 15, 2001
Copyright by J J Dewey
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