Friday, November 28, 2008

Did Jesus really love his disciples?

We pretend that it was only the ungodly who were offended at Christ. What a misunderstanding! No, the best and most kindly man, humanly speaking, who has ever lived, must be offended at him, must misunderstand him; for what love is, divinely understood, this the best of men could learn only from Him. The love Christ, humanly understood, was not self-sacrificing - anything but that; he did not make himself unhappy, in order, humanly understood, to make his disciples happy. No, he made himself and his disciples, humanly speaking, as unhappy as possible. And he who had had it in his power to establish the Kingdom of Israel and make everything so pleasant for himself and his followers, as every contemporary could see clearly enough! [...] No, humanly speaking, it was indeed madness: he sacrifices himself - in order to make the beloved equally unhappy with himself! [...] Was this really love: to gather some poor, simpleminded men about him, to win their devotion and love, as no other had ever won it, to pretend for a moment to look out for them, as now the prospect of the fulfillment of their proudest dream is revealed to them - in order suddenly to reconsider and change the plans; in order without being moved by their prayers, without paying the least attention to them, to plunge them down from this seductive height into the abyss of all dangers; in order, without resistant, to give his enemies power; in order, under mockery and insult while the world rejoiced, to be nailed to the cross as a criminal; was this really love?

- Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (trans. David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946), 90-91.

Did Jesus really love his disciples? He demanded everything of them and then abandoned them, leaving them vulnerable and liable to persecution. He lead them along a path that involved loss of property, freedom, friends, community-standing and ultimately, life. Was he really of any help to them? Kierkegaard's point is that Jesus' claim to love is incomprehensible without reference to God. Do you agree?
Photo by AL.
Five points for naming the department that occupies the rooms in the centre of the picture.


Anthony Douglas said...

Is this an exam? I haven't studied...

I love my wife. You could say that without any reference to God. But I also do things that aren't especially loving.

Jesus did nice stuff for the disciples - indeed, that's part of the contrast K draws. It's the claim to perfect love that causes his problem.

But if Jesus is being attributed with perfect love, then haven't we brought God in implicitly?

Jonathan said...

I agree. Without looking beyond his death to his resurrection, without looking beyond the current situation to his return, many of Jesus' actions look very unhelpful. As Paul says, in that case his preaching and our faith are in vain. It might be fairer to suggest that his actions, if unfounded, were deluded rather than unloving, but they do only make sense when we see things his way.

Anonymous said...

I always think about these sorts of things at Christmas time. 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men' surely the peace and goodwill cannot be as we understand them. How to explain it to the mothers of the slaughtered innocents (an event easily avoided if God had decided to warn the Magi away from Herod BEFORE the visit to Jesus instead of after...).

Matthew Moffitt said...

Is it still the Philosophy department?

Anthony Douglas said...

...and is there any way that we can really know?

byron smith said...

Moffitt - It is. Five points.

Anthony - the sign on the door is a good hint.