That really is two very different categories. You know what I mean? I know me from the inside. I am privileged to my own thoughts, motives and feelings. I only know you from your appearance, actions and words. I assume we are the same kind of thing, but that’s just a theory that I choose to work from. Sure, it seems reasonable – but it doesn’t always “feel” reasonable.
I remember the first time I realized my Mom was a person with feelings – and that I had hurt her. One day it dawned on me that she might even have projects of her own that didn’t have me at their center. What a concept for a young Narcissus to entertain! Solipsism had looked so promising.
So I live between the adolescent idea that having it my way is obviously right and that nagging idea that you might matter some, too. Why do I seem so preloaded with this self-referential point of view? I am told that it is sin. It, at least, seems to provide a fertile ground for it. But maybe, just maybe, there’s something here to inspect.
I regularly argue for objectivity in morality. What that means is that I think that there are some things that are always wrong for all people at all times. Torturing babies for sport comes to mind. Most people agree with some form of this, but occasionally I will run across someone who insists that all morality is made by man and there is no real right and wrong. It’s all just relative to the individual or the community they belong to. This very same person, a moment later, will scream bloody murder if you relativize their dignity or rights. They know some things from looking within themselves that tell them that there is real right and wrong.
It is precisely here that Jesus’ teaching on loving begins to shine, for me, with a brand new luster. Jesus gives the “golden” rule of treating others the way you’d want to be treated. Now this in itself is not really new with Jesus. Many influential teachers and religions throughout history have said similar things. The idea turns on the insight that we all have access to our own thoughts and feelings. If I look within myself and identify the things that I want and need, the things that are “good” for me, then I can safely assume that you want and need many of the same things. Love, in the sense that Christ taught, is the readiness to do good to its object. The ability to identify the “good,” by seeing what I want and need, removes my excuses for not loving you well.
The rub, however, is when I see that your good and my good are in conflict. If I believe that I am the one who must look out for me then when “push comes to shove” I will leave you to fend for yourself. Christ’s teaching that we are cared for by our Heavenly Father tells us that we are free to really love each other and trust our own needs to Him.
It is by this means that you cease to be an obstacle for me and become a treasure.