Love has always been central to the Judeo-Christian religious path. It
shows up in the summary of Jewish law "You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, soul, mind & strength; love your neighbour as
yourself", in Jesus' "Love your enemies." & "A new
commandment I give to you, that you love one another", in St Paul's
"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but do have not love, I am
a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.", in Augustine's "Love and do
what you will", even in the Beatles' still current sentiment
"All you need is love". But very rarely does anyone say what they
really mean by it.
One possibility, the Golden Rule, or "Do as you would be done
by", says nothing about what another person might want or need, and so
is clearly not about love in any usual sense.
The best approach to a definition I've come across is due to Vanstone
. He defines love negatively, because you
can really say only when love is not present, as not controlling, being
vulnerable & not being self-sufficient. I disagree with the last in that
"self-sufficiency" can be read both as "indifference" and
as "independence". Vanstone, to my mind, talks only about
indifference whereas dependence controls others by requiring them to be
supportive, so I come to slightly different conclusions. I see love as
essentially not controlling the other person, which includes not being
dependent on the other person being in any particular way, but nevertheless
being involved with them and thereby risking being controlled. The latter
follows from the former in that if other people do need you to be a certain
way, being or doing anything else would be some sort of control over those
So, love can be defined as "Do not be that which stops other people
being their real selves", or, more catchily, "Be so that others can
comes from the Japanese version of the Chinese equivalent
("ch'an") of the Sanskrit word "dhyanam" which is a
term from Yoga meaning stilling or focussing the mind in meditation. The
experience is of finding oneself through becoming able to see truly, that is
to say without mistaking things that aren't really you with yourself.
Here the word "zen" is being used to refer to the entailments of
: the stilling of one's being by
accepting the needs of other people to be more important than your own, and
the focussing on becoming your real self by allowing your dependences on
people & things that aren't you to be dissolved rather than followed.
There is not intended to be any specific relationship with Zen Buddhism,
except insofar as zen Christianity is to Christianity what Zen Buddhism is to
Buddhism. Everything in zen Christianity is to be justified as an
interpretation of Christianity rather than because it may be seen in Zen
However, it's clear that zazen, the meditation style used by Zen Buddhism,
can be used in Christianity, and is relevant here at least for individual
"Being in heaven" has to be defined as the most real state of
being, and for us there can be no other meaning of "real" than
being without dependence on things that aren't us.
That that is possible must be a matter of faith. We have Jesus' example of
someone believing absolutely that being human is no barrier to being in
heaven. However, it is the "pearl of great price" to which
everything else we might want has to be secondary.
We know we are not our real selves now because we know we sometimes do
that which we don't really want to do & are sometimes dependent on things
that are not really us. That's true, for example, of both high & low
self-esteem - both are dependencies on what other people think of us.
Of course we are not alone in that so progress towards the ideal is
necessarily mutual, complex & gradual, with some being able to drop a
particular need as the trigger for others becoming able to drop one of theirs.
I see people like Jesus as at the forefront of the ability to let go of their
attachments to things & other peoples' natures, in his case to the extent
of physical death, which is why he & others like him have been central to
real progress in human life.
Sooner or later we come up against something we just can't do, or not not
do, due to some need in ourselves that the world be a particular way, and the
inability can mean we are preventing someone else from progressing towards
being their real self, and certainly means we are not yet our real self.
"Turn the other cheek" requires us to accept these painful
situations as us being called to allow our ability to love to be increased,
not by a willed suppression of desires or a faked humility - which is only a
postponement of real change, and is probably damaging anyway - but for real. I
think there may be several stages here, both of preparation & of
consolidation, which are to some extent within our control, but the main one
isn't at all: it is known as the "Dark Night of the
Soul" & is when our dependency on something that feels
essential to our nature - a source of the meaning of our life - but which is
in fact not ourselves at all, is dissolved, and we re-form such that we no
longer need that which previously limited us.
Some people react to the need for inner change by trying to simplify their
exterior lives to the minimum by joining monasteries etc. That might have been
necessary when ordinary life was mostly about survival, but nowadays there are
so many ways to lead one's life that the need of the particular individual for
a specific set of tensions & motivations is best met by the variety of
situations that ordinary life creates. Anyway, it is necessary to connect with
the world in general so that the world in general changes as we change.
It will seem that life isn't long enough for significant change. Many
people go through it changing only right at the end, or perhaps on marriage or
some other significant event, and many without apparently making any progress
at all, though one can never entirely tell. Faith in our potential suggests
reincarnation could be believed in as a way in which God gives us enough time,
not only to change sufficiently but to do so within our own free will as our
desires mature towards "storing up our treasure in heaven not on
is about being one with God. It also refers to what
Jesus achieved by dying on the cross. The view here of what Jesus achieved is
based on "Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his
friend". Loving someone entails wishing them to become who
they really are, which means helping them to believe that letting go of their
unreal dependencies will lead to them being more real, even though those
dependencies currently define reality for that person.
In allowing himself to be put through physical death
Jesus showed us the greatest possible faith in the actual source of reality.
Since we can be more real only by being less dependent on that which is
not really ourselves there is a need, in the end, not to be dependent on
external authority for truth & understanding. But we're not in that state
of wholeness yet so there is also a need to pay attention to all possible
sources of truth & understanding. The Anglican view lists revelation,
church tradition, scripture & experience, but we shouldn't limit the
divine to those. If it's true it'll stay without effort, if not it will fall
away - "Neither accept nor reject.", "Judge not and you will
not be judged.".
Forgiving someone for something is when we no longer need anything out of
that particular situation. By becoming independent of whatever it was we also
give freedom to whoever we're forgiving, at least to try again if not actually
to be free of whatever it was that motivated them in the first place.
Of course, it can also happen that another person's need to be forgiven is
used, prior to them being forgiven, as a means to help them towards being less
temporarily free. Being forgiven doesn't automatically set you free never to
repeat the situation.
A real King or Queen is the source of unity for their people. That entails
them being whole & united in themselves, which means being
independent, for their being, of things external to themselves. So a real
sovereign would be divine, or at least closer to the divine than their people.