“Our peace and health and happiness all depend upon our neighbour.”
—Frederick Faber (1814–1863)
We do rely upon each other whether we like it or not. This is no better explained than when we don’t get on with co-workers or family. Other people can make our lives misery, and bullying is a poignant paradigm with the power to shift our lives into hellishness.
The great problem of humanity is, of course, sin—in particular, selfishness.
Selfishness cuts us off from our neighbour at our volition. And we are useless against the force of selfishness much of the time. We covet our own needs, many times because we lack faith and many times because our desires run ahead of us. Sometimes we do cater for our needs diligently, including an appropriate self-care. But we are more likely to grapple for our needs (and wants) because of selfishness. We do this both consciously and unconsciously, with intent and by accident.
What covers for this horrendous condition is the grace of God. We no longer need to be perfect, as the Pharisees tried to be, but we are commanded to love our neighbour.
We are commanded to elevate our neighbour’s needs to at least the same level as we elevate our own needs.
God’s Ideal – The Interdependence of Humanity
We are dependent upon others as others are dependent upon us. This is how God has made our societies to work. It is a model that relies upon love—the giving, one to another and back again through reciprocity, of what we would deem as necessary for ourselves in the same circumstances.
When we do to others as we would have them do to us we obey the command of love.
This is the principle of interdependence—to be mutually dependent on each other—how we care for each other because we rely upon each other. But we are more apt to deny the fact that we rely on others. We are more independent than interdependent, until, that is, when we really need someone’s help, and then we tip the balance past interdependence and into situational dependence.
Selfishness has us vacillating between independence and dependence, when God’s will is for us to find the balance between the two and make way for interdependence.
But the reality is our surrendered will to be interdependent isn’t always reciprocated; most of the time it won’t be. Our kindness is returned to us by others in fashions of greed. Our humility creates room for others’ pride. Of course, when others are kind to us we don’t always return the favour. When others are humble, sometimes we are prideful.
Our challenge is to overcome our situational selfishness. When we do, interdependence has a chance.
Life on Earth depends on love—for us to be mutually dependent upon each other. But sin, manifest in selfishness, has spoilt God’s plan. If we are to love one another we must get over our selfishness and surrender to God by being mutually dependent upon each other.
Love thy neighbour starts from us and ends there, too. Our biggest test of faith is to consistently love our neighbour. God’s grace is sufficient to enable us to do that, one moment at a time.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.