Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Opposite of Love- Complete Indifference

Encourage each other every day, as long as it’s called “today." Hebrews 3:13 
If it be so, O listener, dear to him in all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your own sphere- none is too wide, and none too limited for such an end- endeavor to correct, improve, and soften them. So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to many more whose happiness depends on you! So may each year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren and sisterhood debarred their rightful share in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy. The Chimes: A Goblin Story 

A Christmas Carol and The Chimes are two of Dickens' masterful Holiday works. The Chimes is a darker piece, set on the eve of a New Year, it's about indifference and passivity in the face of social misery The people of privilege, those of repute, try to ease their guilty consciences. For example, Sir Joseph serves pudding on New Years to the "deserving" poor, where the recipients are truly at the mercy and whim of the "Poor Man's Friend and Father." 

In The Chimes, Toby, a struggling porter or street runner, passively accepts the condemnation of the poor, that they are "born bad." That is, until a bad dream causes him to see that his own beloved daughter, Meg, is in danger of living under that same societal curse of poverty and ridicule. His New Year's nightmare (similar to Scrooges), allows him to see the perils of taking the judgments of others without question, and his own indifference to his dear daughter, the only thing in the world he truly loves.  

It's often said that the opposite of love is not hate but fear. I John 4: " There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love." Another argument can be made that the direct opposite of love is  total indifference.

Indifference, too,  is reflected in a couple of biblical terms. One is a major theme throughout Scripture, hardness of heart: "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion... But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end." Hebrews 3:8, 13-14 (NRSV) Another reference is from Revelation 3: 14 ff. The infamous lukewarm or tepid Christians of Laodicea are "neither cold nor hot," the perfect metaphor for indifference and neglect. Here, lukewarm is not the failure to have strongly held opinions or "taking stands," as we all have them. Instead, it's about forgetting that love alone is the greatest measure of our life with God and others. 

We don't necessarily need a nightmare to shake us up to compassion for others. We can begin 2020 by resolving to "correct, improve, and soften" the harshest realities, both in this world and in our own spirit. For starters, we can speak a word of encouragement, appreciation, and kindness to those closest to us.     



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