Love God, Love Others

I have a thesis that the command to love God and the command to love your neighbor as yourself are fundamentally the same thing. As Christians, we struggle with the fact that God demands 100% of our love, and yet He commands us to love others. As humans, we struggle with the fact that we find things closer to us—people, hobbies, stuff—far easier to love than God, Who seems so distant at times. I believe that truly loving your neighbor (or anything for that matter) means that you first love God, and that loving God inevitably means that you will love your neighbor. You cannot claim to love anything unless you first love God.

My thesis begins with the assumption of creation ex nihilo. God, we believe, created everything out of nothing and, as Genesis says, He created everything good, because God Himself is Good. Things exist and are good only because God has caused them to be. In terms of existence, apart from God, there is nothing, non-existence, nada. Outside of God, nothing exists on its own.

What of evil then? Evil exists; are we to say that it exists in God, that God is evil? Of course not. Existence is itself a good; therefore, evil cannot be said to exist apart from good, because evil is the deprivation of good, the lack of goodness. When a good thing becomes evil, it suffers loss of what it once was. Evil is the nothingness which once was good; it is the subtraction of goodness. But what remains is still good, if only because what remains still exists. Evil, then, does not exist in and of itself.

Thus, even though evil is nothing, God did not create from evil by creating from nothing. Before creation, only God exists. God cannot suffer evil, because He is incorruptible, undergoing no change in His Being; He is the Supreme Good. But created things like humans, although they are good, can suffer evil by becoming less good. By choosing to turn away from God, the source of existence, we are turning towards nothingness, and we suffer the loss of our goodness and existence, which comes from God. That is what it means to be evil.

And so we come to the problem of loving God and others, and we see that if we are to love one another, then we must love God. Any good that exists in a human being comes from God. If we do not love God in them, then it turns out that we do not love at all, for apart from God, a human being is nothing. Hatred, which is the refusal to love a human being who exists, is also the refusal to love God, who is the source of existence. It is the love of nothing. By the same token, idolatry is loving something in a human other than God, but outside of God, there is nothing to love! Idolatry, then, is also the love of nothing, and the love of nothing is more properly called the lack of love.

I hope it is clear by now that the only way to truly love a human, to truly love anything, is to wholly and completely love God. Let us recognize that when we love another person, we actually love God in them. Some may say that this is abusive, treating humans as a means to God, rather than ends in themselves. But isn’t obvious that the only way to love humans as ends, is to love God, the end? In fact, if we do not love God, we always end up abusing other people, either hating them or making them into idols. It is only when we are fully loving God that we are properly loving everything else.

This is why the mystery of the Gospel is so, so important. As evil, sinful people, we are broken lovers, lovers of nothing, lacking true love. The incarnate Christ, however, by His life, death, and resurrection, has redeemed us from the depths. His mission is to give us Himself, to restore our relationship with Him, true God from true God. In Christ, we become complete lovers of God, and it is because of this that we become right lovers of everything else.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? – Matthew 18:24-26.

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