THE REV. DUKE TUFTY, Unity Temple on the Plaza: I have an acquaintance named Rupert who continually shows up at family functions, various meetings and other social occasions. I think Rupert is obnoxious, boisterous and overbearing.
He spouts his political positions, discriminations and religious viewpoints loudly. Rupert talks incessantly and interrupts others in mid-sentence. I find being around him to be draining.
I don’t like Rupert, but I do love him.
I believe liking somebody is a result of being rewarded in some way by their presence, whether it be kindness, enjoyment, good cheer or moral support. Everyone has their own preferences.
Loving somebody in a biblical sense (John 13:34) is wishing them well. I wish Rupert well, and I want him to have a good life. I want him to be happy; I want him to have the same rights and opportunities that I have. I want him to have good health and to be free from harm. I treat him the way I want to be treated. If he falls I will help him up. If he is hungry I will feed him.
I do love Rupert, but I don’t like him.
There are approximately 7 billion variations on the human being on this planet. But we are one species. We share as our home one planet. Our existence comes forth from one God.
We don’t have to like everybody, but to experience the great joy of being alive, we must have love and compassion for all that is living. I may dislike the thorn, but it lessens not my love for the rose.
THE REV. HOLLY McKISSICK, Peace Christian Church UCC: To love one another is to believe the best. In 1847, Soren Kierkegaard wrote an entire book on New Testament love (“Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things …”)
For Kierkegaard, love believes the best in every person and is never deceived. As far as you can believe bad about someone — the co-worker who cheated, the mother who abused — love can believe good.
Because love does not depend on us. It comes from God — the eternal spring that never runs dry. We meet someone, size them up, decide if they are worthy. Not so with love; it is unconditional, grounded in God.
Love can believe the best because so much of a person remains hidden. We know so little of even those closest to us. So isn’t it possible that in the most despicable person, everything hidden is good, compassionate, generous?
With love there is no losing. If you give money to a homeless man and he buys booze or work for disarmament and the world is blown up, you’ve just taken the same gamble God took. Whatever happens, you’ve remained connected to love.
I first read Kierkegaard 30 years ago. It’s still the craziest idea, and the most compelling. It captures what I believe and how I try, with limited success, to live. It challenges many of our unspoken beliefs (some people are unworthy of love).
And, in the end, it’s the only way to live.