Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calvin on Who Our Neighbor is

I just finished reading an essay of Marilynne Robinson's called "Puritans and Prigs;" it is really fantastic. Do your self a favor and read it. Towards the end of the essay she quoted Cavin, in an effort to provide a way beyond secular priggishness. Calvin describes the neighbor as follows:

It is a common habit of mankind that the more closely men are bound together by the ties of kinship, of acquaintanceship, or of neighborhood, the more responsibilities for one another they share. This does not offend God; for his providence, as it were leads us to it. But I say: we ought to embrace the whole of human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is not distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves. When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors. Therefore, if we rightly direct our love, we must first turn our eyes not to man, the sight of who would more often engender hate than love, but to God, who bids us extend to all men the love we bear to him, that this may be an unchanging principle: Whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.

Like Jesus, Calvin describes the neighbor as not merely near in proximity but near in the ontological sense.

Lord, help us to love others in light of you, not to love others in light of their merits or issues.

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