Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’s True Christianity:
We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves. It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully. The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:
“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them. This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)
This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor. People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit. People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.
Wow! Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world. Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?
I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically. I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality. One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing. To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties! (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).
I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”). It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God. And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse. Swedenborg called these “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.
My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter. So, in fact did Jesus. Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this. Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.
Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:
To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.
To treat others justly.
To not judge wrongfully.
To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…
“The Law of Goodwill.”