Abou ben Adhem and Love of Neighbor

English poet Leigh Hunt tells a story about a man named Abou ben Adhem. Abou woke up one night to the vision of an angel writing in a book. He asked the angel what he was writing and the angel said, “the name of those who love the lord.” “Is my name among them?” asked Ben Adhem. The angel shook his head, “Sadly not so.” “Then,” Ben Adhem replied, write my name

as one who loves his fellow men. The angel did so and vanished. The next night the angel reappeared and showed the names of those who love God, and Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

The point of course is that love of God and love of our brothers and sisters is inseparable. We cannot have one without the other. It has been said that if we truly live God’s first commandment, that we will put no other God before Him but worship Him alone, then all the other nine commandments take care of themselves.

There are those who try to separate love of God from love of fellow human beings. Jesus shows us today that love of God and love of neighbor are two sides of the same coin.

Author C.S. Lewis had a great deal to say about the topic of love. Two quotes in particular tell us so much about Christian love.

The first from his book, “Mere Christianity.”

“Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

And then this from “Four Loves.”

“To love at all is to be venerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love, is Hell.”

Jesus showed us just what love is, love is sacrifice. The person who loves much, sacrifices much. This is how we are made in the image and likeness of God.

There was a time when Christians were distinguished by their love. Imagine a world when once again our love for God was reflected in our love for each other. When once again it was said of us “Look at those Christians, see how they love one another.”

Pax Vobiscum.