October 3, 2014

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

The challenge of loving others— no matter what

David SilerThe word “justice” in some circles can create all kinds of interesting conversations.

As Catholic Christians, we are called to live lives based on “biblical justice”—the kind of justice demonstrated by God’s Son, Jesus. This kind of justice imposes demands far beyond mere human justice. If we do not feel challenged by this justice, then we truly don’t understand the standard. This justice will stretch us. After all, it stretched our Savior’s arms on a cross where he died for this justice.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we learn that the term “justice” is the term to describe “right relationships.” We find instruction on how fathers and mothers are to be in relationship to their children, children to their parents, neighbors to neighbors, countries to countries and every other kind of human relationship. When God enters the mix, the standard demands far more from us than a simple human response.

Take for example the story of the Good Samaritan. Here we gain insight into the standard by which we are to strive. We find a man who stops to show compassion for a stranger—a foreigner with which a Samaritan is not “supposed” to even interact.

Not only does he put the beaten man on his own donkey, but takes him to an inn where he also pays for his stay and medical care. And, as if that was not enough, he tells the innkeeper that he will pay for any additional expenses when he passes back through the town. He goes “the extra mile.” Do we go the extra mile for a stranger or foreigner?

Jesus’ parable of the “prodigal son” gives us further insight into the kind of relationship that God has with us, and another example of the standard set for us in relating to others. The prodigal son’s brother viewed his long-lost brother from a human justice perspective and saw his father’s response as unfair. His father demonstrated the kind of love, compassion and forgiveness that is required from a follower of the one, true, living God.

I suspect that every one of us has at one time or another been the recipient of godly justice—those times when we have not gotten what perhaps we may have deserved, but rather a loving response that defied mere human justice. Most likely this kind of love has come from a parent, grandparent or sibling. The real stretch, however, comes in that we are actually called by our Creator to respond like this in every human encounter—even to our enemies!

God’s justice stems from the Greek word used in Scripture to describe the kind of love that God has for us and calls us to demonstrate to the world—“agape.”

The English language does not have a word that suffices in describing the depth and complexity of agape. Agape does not stop at “unconditional love,” but rather is a “love without condition.”

A love without condition means that others can do nothing that would allow us to deny another our love, compassion and forgiveness.

Now, if that isn’t challenging, I don’t know what is!

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

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