Among many interesting points raised in his writings, the apostle John makes one that has poked and prodded both conscience and consciousness: people who claim to love God but hate their fellow human are liars. “How can you claim to love God—whom you have not seen—” he asks, “yet do not love your brother—whom you have seen?”
From time to time I have suspected that my purported love for God might more accurately be called a love of truth or a love of goodness. I have wondered sometimes if what I’m really in love with is more the concept of “God” as a representation of many things, things that are lofty and noble and worthy. “Is it really a love of God?” I have questioned myself, “Or more a love of the notion itself?”
In response and to provide what is a valid, honest and meaningful resolution, I turn back to the apostle’s Socratic dialogue. My reasoning becomes this, “If I can honestly say that I truly do love others—according to John’s logic—isn’t that proof that I do love God?”
Apart from the healthy self-examination, there’s another derived notion that sometimes unsettles my casual confidence and self-righteousness.
I was reminded Tuesday evening that I am not one of those citizens who apparently believe that spending a thousand dollars on fireworks proves one’s patriotism. I do not believe that setting off concussion shells that rattle windows and shake small houses demonstrates one’s love for country, much less one’s courtesy toward neighbors. In at least one respect, though, I find myself to be deeply and devoutly American: I am fiercely democratic.
Whether by deliberate or incidental parental example or absorption of culture and sub-culture, I find that I truly despise the notions of privilege by birth and power by wealth. I am resentful to my core of those who exploit their position at the expense of others. I believe that one woman’s vote should count just as much as anyone else’s vote and that wisdom deserves higher praise than accumulated wealth. I do not believe that the peasant—or anyone else—should have to grovel in front of the king. I refuse to bow the knee to anyone, save God Himself. Independence even to the point of rebellion, yes sir, as American as America itself.
And so, when I find myself feeling resentful toward those who have authority over me, there’s this bit of aggravation that comes at me from those ancient writings. And, aye, here’s the rub from the venerable saint who once leaned against the bosom of Christ Himself: if I do not submit to the authority of those I can see, can I honestly claim that I have submitted to God?