Stop Loving People, Part 2

By Josh Dyson, Classical School of Wichita

If you have not done so, I encourage you to read the introduction to this series, Stop Loving People, Part 1.

Who-Is-My-NeighborIn this series of blogs we will consider the following: 1. God’s particular love; 2. that the abstraction of “people” leads to non-love; 3. and that God has placed particular people in your schools and lives to love. I will then elaborate on the problem created by our failure to love particularly then give actions to take to learn to love as Jesus commanded us.

In this post, part 2, we will address points 1, 2, and 3 above.

1. God’s love is a particular love. His love is not for an idea like “humanity” or “people”, but his love is for particular people—people with particular names, particular pains, particular fears, etc. God loves particular people. Jesus says,“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10.29-31, ESV). Examine these three verses. How does Jesus demonstrate the value of a person? This is how He demonstrates value—that they are known in such a way that their hairs are numbered. What does that mean? It means that they, you, and I are not part of some nebulous group, but instead are known individually and particularly.

God’s particular love is evident in what the Reformed tradition calls “Limited Atonement,” and often is referred to now as “Particular Redemption.” Many “Almost-Calvinists” jump ship on this point. They may refer to themselves as “4-pointers”[1]. I was once a part of that number—those that could not accept Limited Atonement. The reason I rejected the doctrine was that I actually misunderstood it. I was focused on the “limited” part. But when I realized what the doctrine really meant, I recognized the true beauty of it.

Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption is the idea that when Christ died on the cross, he does not simply die a generic death for potential adherents, but instead he truly died for particular people. In a very real, specific, and particular way…Christ died for you—not as an idea—but as a real person. God can say that He loves the “world” and actually mean it, for He is unlimited in his nature; but when we say that we love the world, we actually cannot because we are limited. We are confined simply to love our neighbor. And this is a good thing. This leads to the second point.

2. Abstraction of “people” leads to non-love. It is easy to love “people” as an idea. “People” don’t tick you off. “People” don’t make stupid comments. “People” don’t do any of your pet-peeves. And “people” don’t smell… Anthony Esolen addresses how we have trained our children to believe they love animals in the same abstract way[2]. He says that we take our children to the zoo to see the animals. We call these zoo animals “exotic”, but they are actually quite safe (though we think them dangerous) in their cages, and they cost us nothing but an admission ticket. But when the children return home, they see the blue jay in their backyard acting as sentry over the birdhouse—or they see how the squirrel adapts a concrete world as its own. These everyday animals seem boring… mundane…insignificant. Our children have learned to love the idea of animals while not really loving animals particularly. In the same way, it is easy to love “people” as an idea without loving a person in particular.

In his usual manner, Fyodor Dostoevsky pries into our souls with this passage from Brothers Karamazov (emphasis mine):

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually… the more I love humanity.

And so we find ourselves in this common and shared experience as educators—one in which we love “students” but can’t bear him, that one that sits two rows back by the chalkboard. As classical Christian educators I challenge you to stop loving “students” and instead start loving each student particularly.

3. God has placed particular people in your schools to love. God is sovereign over who has ended up in your classrooms/school. Of course, this is a simple concept to grasp, but day in and day out it is so hard to live out. It seems that the only time you hear people talk about God sovereignly placing students in your classroom, it is almost mocked. But last year at the regional classical education conference at School of the Ozarks, Bruce Williams focused on this in his plenary talk. He spoke with sincerity and seriousness of how God had sovereignly placed those students in his school. In His sovereign and all-wise plan God has put in front of you Hard Students, Hard Parents, Hard Co-workers (and even some Hard Administrators!).

In the next parts of this series we will look at the problems that have been caused by our failure to love particularly. Then I will propose some ideas of what to do about it.

Blessings to you in Christ!

[1] The reason is, of course, that there are the well-known “5 Points of Calvinism”. I commend to you John Piper’s brief defense here.

[2] Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen.

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