Tonight we begin our discussions of excerpts from Soren Kierkegaard’s The Works of Love as found in Provocations. For tonight, please read chapter 25 God’s Triumphant Love and chapter 26 Neighbor Love. In connection with these chapters, please also read John 1:1-17, John 3:16-20, Philippians 2:1-11, and Luke 10:25-37.
In Neighbor Love, Kierkegaard introduces us to his understanding of the commandment that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This understanding will form the foundation of the remainder of his work. The discussion of neighborly love begins with Jesus’ telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. There, a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer his opinion, and the lawyer responds that he must love God (Deut. 6:5) and love his neighbor (Lev. 19:18b). The lawyer then asks Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” In other words, the lawyer wants to know “What is the identity of the person I must a show love towards?” Most likely, for the lawyer, that class of people is his fellow Jews and those that follow God’s Law.
In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks the lawyer which person proved to be the neighbor of the injured man. The lawyer wanted to know who counts as his neighbor so he knows who he must love. What Jesus says is that only when a person loves does that person discover who their neighbor is. In other words, we are not to identify our neighbor and then love that person, but we are to love and that identifies our neighbor.
Within our reading tonight, Kierkegaard introduces us to his dichotomy between preferential love and Christian love. Preferential love (like the lawyer in the gospel) begins with the identity of the beloved not with love. Preferential love is that love we have for a spouse, a friend, an ethnic group, a nationality, or those with whom we have some affinity. Preferential love is based on feelings, good fortune, or the accident of birth. It is something that happens to us, such as when we fall in love.
Christian love, however, is based upon shall love, not the identity of the beloved. This duty to love is blind to the identity of the beloved. Because of the imperative shall, this love is given unconditionally and equally to all persons without any distinctions. When we do our duty to love, we find our neighbor. Most importantly, the perfection of this love has nothing to do with the perfection of the beloved. As Kierkegaard writes “king, beggar, scholar, rich man, poor man, friend, enemy, we do not resemble each other, but in being a neighbor we are unconditionally alike.”
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken fettuccine alfredo. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only those like yourself, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:46-48.