And You Shall Love the One You're With!
Dealing as he was with a pharisaical lawyer, could it be possible that the teacher was being a bit ironic? And "pharisaical" needn't have any Jewish connotations at all. Indeed, to interpret it that way would be to miss the point entirely. A "pharisee" is any person who strictly observes the rules in an outward, mechanical, and possibly hypocritical way. Today we might call such a person "anal," or obsessive-compulsive.
So let's just suppose that the teacher is making this statement to an anal lawyer, so it has a very specific context. First of all, he might be saying to the lawyer that YOU -- yeah you, smartass! -- shall love the lord, thus turning the tables on him and suggesting that it is actually possible to do this, just like any other ritual. Also, to say that you SHALL do so is to insist that the lawyer try to do something outwardly that can only be accomplished inwardly.
In other words, what could it possibly mean to say that you SHALL love? How can one be compelled to love anyone or anything? What if you're no longer in love with your girlfriend, but I insist that you SHALL love her? How would you go about doing that? Really, you could only pretend you loved her by going through all the correct motions. Is it possible to love God in the same way -- to go through all the correct motions? If we take the teacher literally, the answer would have to be yes. But how could that be?
At the end of this passage, the teacher then says that this commandment -- along with loving the neighbor -- is prior to all of the law and all of the prophets. This is helpful, because it emphasizes that the spirit is anterior to the law, and even that the very purpose of the law is to codify the spirit. But no law can actually do this, especially if it becomes only a law.
Now, for psychohistorical reasons, I do believe that there was a time that man required very concrete rules, since he was generally incapable of abstraction. Indeed -- and this is a bit of a sidetrack -- in Capitalism and the Jews, Muller makes the fascinating point that, ironically, it was the development of capitalism that really allowed the average Joe to begin thinking abstractly. In this regard, the Jews had a head start over the Joes because they had already been doing this for centuries vis-a-vis the Law.
That is, by no means is the rabbinical tradition one of slavish devotion to concrete and mechanical laws. Rather, there is a constant argument over what the laws mean, how they are to be interpreted, how they apply to changing circumstances, and the multiple levels of meaning. Really, Judaism is one long argument. (And remember also that study is a mode of love.)
Anyway, here is how Muller describes the cognitive impact of capitalism: "Such an economy created a mind-set that was more abstract, because the means of exchange were themselves becoming more abstract." In the past, exchange revolved around barter, giving one concrete thing for another.
But "with the development of credit, money becomes more abstract still, little more than a bookkeeping notation. Through constant exposure to an abstract means of exchange, individuals under capitalism are habituated to thinking about the world in a more abstract manner." Life becomes more "calculated, less impulsive and emotional."
Another critical point is that capitalism facilitates the emergence of the true individual, because it creates a field of so many choices in which to actualize the self. In agrarian culture, almost everyone is a farmer or a mother. But in a market economy there are "new possibilities of individuality." It is now "possible for the individual to develop a variety of interests and to become involved in a wider range of activities than would otherwise be possible."
Back to love as theological virtue. Pieper points out that there are indeed two sides of love, one active, one passive. It is both "something we 'practice' and do as conscious actors and also something that comes over us and happens like an enchantment." Here again, we are dealing with the complementarity of letter/spirit, but the former must be dependent on the latter, since it could never be the other way around.
And yet, if, as we were saying yesterday, love discloses reality, then there is more to it than just passively "falling in love." Rather, in a certain sense, to love is simply to assent to reality, or to "say yes to O." So in that sense, you must "love the Lord," for failing to do so is to situate oneself outside reality. Thus, there is an element of will involved, and will is the basis of faith. Again, irrespective of one's first principles -- i.e., whether religious or secular -- one can only affirm these principles with a leap of faith, or will.
Pieper makes the interesting observation that in the Psalms, there are many instances of the affirmation that God wills man. For to truly love someone is to want them to exist. To say "I love you" is to say, "boy, I'm glad that you exist!," or "existence sure is good with you in it!" And this doesn't just apply to people. For example, to love the United States is to say that one is happy it exists.
Pieper concludes that "love as the primal act of will is simultaneously the point of origin and the center of existence as a whole. What kind of person one is will be decided at this point." And "the most extreme form of affirmation that can possibly be conceived of is creatio," or bringing something into existence.
So if God loves man by willing him to be, perhaps we love God by willing him into existence. For God is always "beyond being" unless we cause him to ex-ist or "stand out" by reciprocating the love. You might say that love causes God to be in time.