Tuesday, November 3, 2015

People are lovable

It is fascinating that God commands us to love him and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On the one hand, love can hardly be demanded or commanded: doesn't love arise spontaneously, and isn't love a matter of free choice? Yet God commands us to love our neighbors. As I've recently commented, this shows us that we wouldn't do so otherwise. The fact that God commands us to love our neighbors speaks to our prior disposition not to love.

Yet the command reveals a further truth: that people are lovable. This may news to many of us, especially when we think of the worst of the worst with which we are familiar: ISIS decapitators, or Hitler, or psychopaths, or just the more mundanely intolerable characters we run into in our daily lives. God commands us to love these people too. Now God doesn't command what is intrinsically impossible: he doesn't command us, for example, to draw a square circle. Therefore, these individuals, as evil and as despicable as they may be, must nevertheless be lovable. There must be some good in them which we can recognize and appreciate and value.

God certainly shows us that this is how he sees things. Paul told the Roman church that God showed his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins (Rom 5.8). God loves the world, and demonstrates this love for it through the self-sacrifice of his sin on the world's behalf (1 John 4.8ff.). God consequently sees something lovable and worth valuing -- indeed, something of tremendous value -- in even the worst, the chief of sinners, as Paul calls himself.

Now, if God sees something lovable about all people, it must be that people are lovable. But we don't think all people are lovable. The obvious inference to make at this juncture is that there must be something about people we don't see. John says that people who obey Christ's commandments and who love are in the light and have knowledge of the truth; those who hate, however, are in the darkness and they can't see things clearly (1 John 2.11).

If we don't love people, if we don't see people as lovable, even the worst of them, it must be because there is darkness blinding us. We don't yet see things as God sees them. If we could see things as God sees them, we would see in every person an immense treasure, worth giving one's life for. But as it is, we are in the darkness and we still only see things that repulse us, without seeing the good that makes people lovable. If the veil were removed from our eyes, perhaps we would love just as naturally and as completely as God does. The most beautiful painting in the world will not move me if I cover my eyes or place it in the dark. The light has to turn on for me to see and to love!