8.02.2013

Works of Love - *You* Shall Love Your Neighbour - part 1

Continuing my overview of Kierkegaard's challenging work on Christian love.  My goal is to reflect what Kierkegaard says, not what I think on the subject.

Despite not showing preference, one is not to stop loving their beloved, since to do so would be contradictory as the neighbour is everyone.  Only the preferential should be taken out of love, not the love itself.  The more preferentially one loves, the further from neighbourly love one gets.  Man's kinship is to God, and since God is love and man is to be in God's likeness, man must love as God loves - without prejudice and without distinction.

Therefore, the highest love is neighbourly love.  Friends and lovers die and leave, their love is lost, but neighbourly love is such that it can never die, it can never be lost or leave and it can always be found, because everyone is a neighbour, and you shall love them.  If love was meant only that which was extraordinary, then God would be unable to love since for Him the extraordinary does not exist.  Therefore Christian love, neighbourly love, is the most perfect love.

Friendship and erotic love require additional objects to love, however neighbourly love has no object, just love. This is not odd, to love the everyman, the ordinary, the plain.  Love that requires an object is not comprehensive nor eternal, it can change, die, or be unreciprocated.  Therefore that love is not perfect.  Real love has no friends or enemies since it is blind to all distinctions, "real love blindly loves everyman".

Even non-Christians display Christian love when they shutter at certain forms of distinction (e.g. caste system).  Through Christ, everyman is equal in his kinship to God, so we should treat every one equally.

However, Christianity - though making all men equal - has not taken away distinctions.  In this life, we can not live without distinctions.  Christianity does not tell fables about the pure or essential man, it only wants to make men pure.  Therefore Christianity has taken away love based on distinction, but has not done away with distinctions.  Distinction is still there to tempt us, and lure us away from the highest love.  

The reason Christianity does not take away distinctions is because it is unconcerned with worldliness: 

"[Worldliness] rejoices when it succeeds in making temporal conditions similar for more and more ... It's vision will never be achieved in time, that even if this struggle were to continue for a millennia ... Christianity ... is immediately at the goal: it allows all distinctions to stand, but it teaches the equality of the eternal"


It is not that the high born need to become lowly, or the lowly need to be lifted up.  But each of them need to be lifted up beyond being high or low to understand who each other is (and themselves are) - as persons.  Men who focus on distinctions demand solidarity with each other rather than God, and in the process reject what is universally human.  Christianity then is not concerned about eliminating distinctions but sanctifying by Christian equality (i.e. neighbourly love - love without distinction).