What will our life be like if we love God and our neighbors as God would have us love? This is a very, very, difficult question. It is clear that if we love God and our neighbors we will give food to a starving child, water to a thirsty stranger, shelter to someone who is homeless and cold. This intuitive truth is strong and basic. Is it always good to give a drink of water to a thirsty neighbor? There may be situations where we must choose to give water to one of two neighbors based on which neighbor must have the water immediately to live. There may be times when we are physically prevented from giving water to a thirsty neighbor, or when there may be other negative consequences of doing so. Yet it is clear that the basic, fundamental, statement “we should give water to a thirsty neighbor” is always true.
So where does all that we have said leave us? Does it leave us with pragmatic, situation ethics, where that which is “good” is determined by individual circumstances? It does not. Perhaps God will forgive us if we love God and our neighbor with a lesser love, yet that does not change the fact that you can and should “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, nothing more, nothing less, period.
If I love a neighbor who is hungry and thirsty what will I do? The answer is that I will give them food and water. No matter how hard I have tried to find another answer, if I love my neighbor and my neighbor is hungry and thirsty, I cannot imagine not giving them food and water. If you know and understand the love that God has given us, you know and understand that there is no other answer. This alone tells me that if we love our neighbor as God would have us love, we will not live a “normal life”, we will live a “fanatic life”.
So what will we do if we live a “fanatic life”? If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will go from neighbor to neighbor, communicating God’s word to them by word and deed so that each and every one knows and understands that they can and should choose to do that which is good, that they can and should choose to do God’s will. If you love your neighbor as yourself, how can you do anything less than the best you can so that each and every one of your neighbors knows and understands that they can choose to do God’s will, and live a joyous life forever in heaven?
Even though you may agree with what we have just said, you need to recognize that it is incredibly difficult to live a “fanatic life”. It is relatively easy to accept that living a “normal life” filled with love for our family and friends is far better than living a life filled with selfish physical and emotional pleasure. It is not as easy to accept that a “normal life” is not the life that we should live, that it is not the “good life”. It is extremely difficult to accept that we should live a life filled with “fanatic” and total acceptance of that which God would have us do.
This brings us to a very difficult question, if you “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, and you live in a world where some people do not choose to do God's will, will you ever do that which you would not do in a world where every person does God's will?
God has given each and every one of us the choice of giving food to our hungry neighbor or not. God has given each and every one of us the choice of doing physical harm to our neighbor or not. No matter what anyone else may choose to do, each of us has the choice to give food to a hungry neighbor or not, and each of us has the choice to do physical harm to a neighbor or not. I strongly believe that God would never have a neighbor choose not to give food to a hungry neighbor. I strongly believe that God would never have a neighbor choose to do physical harm to another neighbor. I simply do not believe that it is ever God’s will that any of us choose not to give food to our hungry neighbor, or that any of us choose to do physical harm to our neighbor.
If your neighbor has plenty to eat yet is thirsty, and your neighbor refuses to share their food, it is not God’s will that you say to your neighbor “share your food and then I will give water to you”. It is God’s will that you love your neighbor as yourself and give them a drink of water if they are thirsty. If your neighbor is doing physical harm to their neighbor, it is not God’s will that you say to your neighbor “do not do physical harm to your neighbor and then I will not do physical harm to you”. It is God’s will that you love your neighbor as yourself and not do physical harm to them.
If we can kill one neighbor and prevent them from killing two other neighbors, it is not God’s will that two people be killed, it is not God’s will that one person be killed. It is God’s will that no one is killed. If we do physical harm to reduce the physical harm done by another person, there is one more person in the world who is doing physical harm, not one less. I am unwilling to conclude that God would have any of us do physical harm to our neighbor when each and every one of us has the choice to do physical harm or not to do physical harm, to kill or not to kill. [If you do not agree with one or more of the conclusions we reach, you may want to read our comments and notes on our website (LifeNotes.org) which discuss some of our views on complex questions and difficult topics, and read our book - Love - In Search of a Reason for Living which contains additional text and explains our ideas in greater detail. Free copies are available at LifeNotes.org, and from Apple and Google eBooks. Paperback and Kindle versions are also available. See the last page of this book for details.]
It is God’s will that each and every moment of our lives each and every one of us do God’s will, nothing less, nothing more, period. My hope is that if we live a “fanatic life”, we will have done God’s will on earth, and after our physical death we will live a joyous life in heaven, nothing could be better.
What if I am wrong about God wanting us to live a “fanatic life”? I understand that if I am wrong, the consequences of choosing to live a “fanatic life”, where we do no physical harm to protect others, may be horrendous. As the probable consequences of choosing to live a “fanatic life” unfold you may witness horrific events including the torture and death of adults, children, and infants. I strongly believe that we can and should live a “fanatic life”, yet I do not believe that during my lifetime on earth I will ever be able to say in good conscience that I am certain that I am right.
The collective wisdom of generations of human beings who want to do that which is good is that God would have us live a “normal life”. The vast majority of people, almost every person in the world, believe that we should do the best that we can to maximize the positive physical aspects of our lives on earth, while minimizing the negative. Perhaps the billions of people, including virtually every theologian and philosopher, who believe that we can and should love God and family and friends with a more complex love are right. Most view life after death as a separate existence from life on earth, where those people who made physical life on earth as “good” as it can be will live a joyous life in heaven.
A “normal life” most would consider to be a “good life” is a life where each individual has strong spiritual beliefs and faith which they gladly share with other people. Such a normal life may include a strong family unit, a loving spouse and kids, and close relationships with relatives. The parents have jobs they enjoy, that provide sufficient income for the family’s comfort, and that give them plenty of time at home. Family members and extended family enjoy talking, playing games, helping with homework, working around the house, eating out, going to movies, etc. The adults and kids participate in sports and hobbies, and take family vacations each year.
A “good” normal life includes volunteer work at hospitals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc., and generous donations to charitable organizations. The family accepts protection provided by police, military, and other government agencies using social programs, diplomacy, and the minimum force necessary to prevent one person from doing physical harm to another person. People who live such a “normal life” have a pleasant, happy, positive attitude toward all their “neighbors” - including family, friends, and strangers.
This is a “normal life” that most people would call a “good life”. Indeed, almost everyone believes that this is the life that God would have us live. It is a life that focuses primary love and attention on family and self, and secondary love and attention on friends, while at the same time providing what each individual considers to be their fair share of love, care, and help to those outside what is commonly known as their extended family.
Is this kind of “normal life” the life God would have us live, or not? I return to the question, if I love a neighbor who is hungry and thirsty what will I do? The answer is that I will give my neighbor food and water. My conclusion remains the same, I strongly believe that God would have us live a “fanatic life”. Yet I may be wrong.
Even though I strongly believe that each and every one of us can and should live a “fanatic life”, I intuitively believe that very, very, very, very, very few will choose to live such a life. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to love God and their neighbor with a “lesser love” than God would have them choose. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to marry and have a family, to have a successful career, to support government use of minimal physical force to minimize physical harm, etc. They will buy a nice house and car, participate in sports, and go on vacations. They will make generous charitable donations and volunteer to help those in need, and they will share their faith with others. Yet they will not spend all of their time communicating God’s word to neighbors, nor will they spend all of their money feeding, clothing, and caring for them. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to live a “normal life” that maximizes the positive physical aspects of their life on earth, without causing what they consider to be unacceptable negative consequences for their neighbors.
We live in a world where people choose to do evil. If we do not use minimal physical force to prevent physical harm, there will almost certainly be people who inflict excruciating pain and almost unimaginable tortures on our neighbors. If we do nothing to physically stop them, there will almost certainly be parents who savagely beat infants, mass murderers who kill innocent children, and brutal political leaders who commit genocide. If we do nothing to stop those who choose to do evil there will almost certainly be more wars, slavery, rape, and murder. If we choose to live a “fanatic life” we will most likely live a lifetime surrounded by horrors. Almost every human being who wants to love God and their neighbor chooses to love their neighbor with a “lesser love”, and accepts physical violence that they believe will “minimize” physical harm to their neighbors.
Even if we do not face “horrors”, living a “fanatic” life requires the best we can do in every situation. There are people in the world who do not have enough to eat, so long as we have any money we have the choice to use that money to provide food for those neighbors, either directly or through charitable agencies. Similarly, we always have the choice to use our resources to provide water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare for people, or to go to a movie, play sports, buy a car, and fix our roof. We can spend all our waking hours communicating God’s word to our neighbors by word and deed, or we can take an hour off to watch tv, go to a restaurant, or simply relax. We always have the choice to live a “fanatic” life, however only a very, very, very, very, very few will make that choice. Almost everyone, perhaps everyone who is alive today, will choose to live a “normal” life with the hope that God will forgive them.
Perhaps we are wrong about God wanting us to live a fanatic life, perhaps God wants you to live a “normal life” which minimizes the negative and maximizes the positive. Even though we do not believe we are wrong, perhaps we are wrong and there is existential meaning and value in living a “normal life” even if there is no life after death. Perhaps if we choose to live a “fanatic life” we will not be choosing to do that which is good.
If you, like almost every single human being in the world, including the author, are not willing to accept the physical consequences of living a “fanatic life”, then live a “normal life” like the “normal life” we described. If you are unwilling to live a “fanatic life”, love God with as much of your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength as you are willing to love him with, and love your neighbors as much as yourself as you are willing to love them, with the hope that God will forgive you.
You must be absolutely certain that you complete your search of your heart, mind, and soul, and know and understand the true, pure, real, love that God has given us. You must be absolutely certain that you complete your search of your heart, mind, and soul, and know and understand God’s will, what God would have you do. You must decide for yourself what you will do. You will make your choice.