Tag Archives: Love your neighbor

“Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague” by Martin Luther

“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are.

They say that it is God’s punishment; if He wants to protect them He can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting Him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing.

Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have.

He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate the house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city.

What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way:

“Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.

I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary.

Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death. ‘Whoever loves danger,’ says the wise man, ‘will perish by it.'”

–Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 43; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 43: 131–132.

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“We are to promote with all our strength the good reputation of our neighbor” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“We are to promote with all our strength the good reputation of our neighbor. We must render him honor and respect and preserve his reputation as much as the truth will allow us to do. If he has faults, they are to be covered rather than recounted.”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 3, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 3: 234.

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“The love of one’s country” by C.S. Lewis

“I turn now to the love of one’s country. Here there is no need to labour M. de Rougemont’s maxim; we all know now that this love becomes a demon when it becomes a god.

Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon. But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved.

We cannot keep even Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country. Let us limit our field.

There is no need here for an essay on international ethics. When this love becomes demoniac it will of course produce wicked acts.

But others, more skilled, may say what acts between nations are wicked. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the hope of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition. Neither of these is the efficient cause of national behaviour.

For strictly speaking it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects—I write only for subjects—will make it easier for them to act wickedly; healthy patriotism may make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness.

If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country. And that is what I am writing about.

How ambivalent patriotism is may be gauged by the fact that no two writers have expressed it more vigorously than Kipling and Chesterton.

If it were one element two such men could not both have praised it. In reality it contains many ingredients, of which many different blends are possible.

First, there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells.

Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about “Britain.” Kipling’s “I do not love my empire’s foes” strikes a ludicrously false note.

My empire! With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language.

As Chesterton says, a man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very like his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he could not even begin to enumerate all the things he would miss.

It would be hard to find any legitimate point of view from which this feeling could be condemned. As the family offers us the first step beyond self-love, so this offers us the first step beyond family selfishness.

Of course it is not pure charity; it involves love of our neighbours in the local, not of our Neighbour, in the Dominical, sense. But those who do not love the fellow-villagers or fellow-townsmen whom they have seen are not likely to have got very far towards loving “Man” whom they have not.

All natural affections, including this, can become rivals to spiritual love: but they can also be preparatory imitations of it, training (so to speak) of the spiritual muscles which Grace may later put to a higher service; as women nurse dolls in childhood and later nurse children.

There may come an occasion for renouncing this love; pluck out your right eye. But you need to have an eye first.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 22-24.

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