Love’s a pretty big part of the Gospel in a variety of senses, central to the first two commandments:
“30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I have been particularly bothered/concerned/pre-occupied with what this really means in a day-to-day, lived Gospel, which is the one that matters the most in loads of instances.
To stress the importance of getting this right, Jesus himself said:
“34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35
The characteristic that Christ picks out from all the virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy and of good report (I couldn’t resist…) things that we should be doing as the sign that someone is one of his disciples, is having LOVE. And as if that weren’t enough, Paul gives a pretty fantastic treatise on charity, a snippet of which I’ll include:
“1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Yeah, so without love/charity we are nothing. This sentiment is mirrored in the Book of Mormon for those of you overly concerned with the lack of correct translation and ambiguity of the Bible:
“46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni 7:46-47
So, it seems pretty clear that we should all get some of this charity stuff, which leads to some questions.
How does charity relate to romantic love?
Does this have anything to do with the notion that any two worthy, covenant-keeping Mormons could get married and have a successful marriage?
And finally, the question that has been eating at me for quite some time: Can I love someone and not like them?
I feel like this may be possible, but am wary of embracing such an idea because it conveniently fits into my current worldview and enables me to feel like I’m a pretty loving dude, even if countless times throughout the day I think “Wow, I would never ever be friends with you.”
Can I still have favorites as a perfectly loving individual? Is there a way to view everyone with perfect love and still not want to spend time with them? I mean, I don’t always want to spend time with people that I do like and enjoy being around, so it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch to not want to hang with people that I don’t really jive with.
Yet, something about this feels off to me. I mean if God said to me, “I love you Conor and I’ll bring you some cookies and a casserole when you’ve had a rough day, but I don’t really want to watch Buffy and eat popcorn with you,” I’d feel a bit like He/She/They were being a bit disingenuous. Can God really love me if He/She/They don’t want to spend any time with me and only show up if things are super sucky and then peace out once they’ve placed a bandage over my bleeding stump of an emotional arm?
It seems like there still have to be some gradations or different sorts of love (as far as romantic and platonic relationships go, since I don’t think a marriage relationship with everyone you have perfect, God-like love for is necessarily how things should or will end up). But, I don’t think I can really justify my previous stance of “loving, but not liking” people.
Sure, there will be people that you can feel love for that it’s dangerous to spend time with and in certain contexts and situations we need to be careful about the people we associate with. That being said, I think I need to reevaluate when I claim to love people, but I would never consider spending time with them if I could help it.
Perhaps I’m the only one that struggles with this. I mean, I could be the only ‘make love not war’-hippie-esque introverted guy that tries to minimize the time spent with other people. If so, God bless you wonderful, loving people.
I don’t know how to go about being less hypocritical about this. Nor do I know exactly what should be expected/required/demanded of those that profess to have charity.
Do I need to hang out and play video games with my roommates?
Eat dinner with strangers in my ward?
Play cards with people in my FHE group?
Sit with lonely people in the CougarEat?
Go to movies with any and everyone I know?
Binge Gillmore Girls with those Facebook friends I have that constantly rave about it?
Go hiking with that outdoorsy dude?
Swim with my home-teachers?
Play football with “friends”?
Or should I be there in times of need:
A listening ear?
A shoulder to cry on?
A body to provide an awkward, skeletal, wary hug?
A provider of cookies?
A voice of reason?
A giver of wisdom?
Maybe some mixture of both. Perhaps it depends on who it is, what they have and need, or who I am. I dunno. I do know that I can and need to do better. If all we need is love, I should probably figure out what it is and start giving it out. I mean, don’t we all want to know what love is?