Have you heard Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan? He told it as an illustration of what The Greatest Commandment means by loving your neighbour as yourself. Although it is the best known, it is only one of His many teachings about loving your enemies. In the parable, although the Jews hated the Samaritans, the Samaritan held nothing back in caring for a Jewish victim of robbery and abuse after Jewish holy men had left him to suffer.
If The Greatest Commandment’s reference to neighbour includes even our enemies, might it include all God’s children. After all, do you not want everyone to love all your children? And since God created every human being, are we not all God’s children? Must that not mean that The Greatest Commandment demands that we love everyone we encounter. Must our love be more than a requited love? Must we love those who don’t love us? Must we love those who don’t appeal to us, those we dislike and even those we feel we are right to dislike. Could this possibly mean we have to love sadists, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, terrorists and despotic dictators? Really? How can that make any sense?
In Not Guilty: A Defence of the Bottom Dog, Robert Blatchford persuasively argues that we cannot judge the worst perpetrators because they are victims of their heredity and environment over which they have no control. While you likely agree that no one has control over the genes they inherit, do you question the impact of environment and that we have no control over it?
How could our formative environment excuse us if, in one family, one child turns out good and another bad. Blatchford argues that no two siblings share the same environment. In the home, one may be more influenced by the mother and the other by the father and each by different relatives. In the school, they may have different teachers or, the same teacher may be able to reach one more than the other. In the playground, one may be exposed to different friends and enemies than the other. The bad child has no more control over their childhood environment than does the good child.
As well, how could our adult environment excuse us when adults do have control over the environment they choose. Blatchford argues that the choices adults make have already been limited by their heredity and formative environment. The bad citizen has no more control over their heredity and environment than does the good citizen. If you have difficulty accepting Blatchford’s position, you may benefit from acquiring and studying his arguments in Not Guilty: A Defence of the Bottom Dog.
If you accept his position, does it not lead to the conclusion that, although we may need to incarcerate perpetrators to protect society, we need to lovingly help them rehabilitate and support their reintegration into society rather than punish them. As well, we don’t need to like perpetrators in order to love them. As my wife told our children, “It’s wrong to hate little Billy, but it’s right to hate the bad things little Billy does.” If you were to focus on what perpetrators do rather than who they are, might Blatchford’s arguments enable you to love all God’s children?
Of course, perpetrators must be held accountable for what they do. We are not commanded to accept or excuse what they do. We must take every action available to prevent them from repeating evil acts.
Can any of this let us off the hook to love all God’s children? Once again, does it look like all means all?