What Has Happened to Love of Neighbor?
MILLIONS feel lost, afraid, and miserable, with nowhere to turn. “I eat alone, walk alone, sleep alone and talk to myself,” one person lamented. Few are willing to reach out and act in a loving way toward those in need.
A retired businesswoman observed: ‘One evening a widow who lives on my floor knocked on my door and said she was lonely. I told her politely but bluntly that I was busy. She apologized for bothering me and left.’
The woman continued: ‘I felt quite proud of myself for not getting trapped by such a bore. The next evening a friend telephoned and asked if I knew the woman in my building who had committed suicide the night before. If you have not already guessed, she was the woman who knocked on my door.’ Afterward, the businesswoman said she had learned a “hard lesson.”
It is well-known that babies deprived of love can die. Older ones can also die if they do not receive love. In a suicide note, an attractive 15-year-old wrote: “Love is not being lonely any more.”
A Modern Tragedy
Commenting a few years ago on ethnic hatred, Newsweek reported: “‘Hate thy neighbor’ seemed the motto of the year.” During conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, formerly part of Yugoslavia, over a million people were forced from their homes, and tens of thousands were killed. By whom? “Our neighbors,” lamented a girl who had been driven from her village. “We knew them.”
“We used to live together in peace,” a woman said of the 3,000 Hutu and Tutsi living in the village of Ruganda. The New York Times said: “The story of this village is the story of Rwanda: Hutu and Tutsi living together, intermarrying, not caring or not even knowing who was a Hutu and who a Tutsi. Then something snapped,” and “the killings began.”
Similarly, Jews and Arabs in Israel live side by side, but many hate one another. Throughout this 20th century, like situations have arisen in Northern Ireland, in India and Pakistan, in Malaysia and Indonesia, and between the races in the United States—yes, throughout the world we live in.
One could continue citing example after example of ethnic and religious hatred. Never before in history has the world been so lacking in love.
Who Bears Responsibility?
Hatred, like love, is taught. A popular song says that children are “taught before it’s too late/Before you are six or seven or eight/To hate all the people your relatives hate.” Especially today is hate taught. The churches in particular have failed to teach their members to love.
The French newspaper Le Monde asked: “How can one avoid thinking that the Tutsi and the Hutu who are at war in Burundi and Rwanda were trained by the same Christian missionaries and attended the same churches?” Indeed, according to the National Catholic Reporter, Rwanda is a “70% Catholic nation.”
Earlier in this century, countries of Eastern Europe turned to atheistic Communism. Why? In 1960 the dean of a religious faculty in Prague, Czechoslovakia, observed: “It is we, we Christians alone, who are responsible for Communism. . . . Remember that the Communists once were Christians. If they do not believe in a just God, whose fault is it?”
Consider what the churches did during World War I. British brigadier general Frank Crozier noted regarding that war: “The Christian Churches are the finest blood-lust creators which we have and of them we made free use.” Later, after World War II, The New York Times said: “In the past local Catholic hierarchies almost always supported the wars of their nations, blessing troops and offering prayers for victory, while another group of bishops on the other side publicly prayed for the opposite outcome.”
Yet, Jesus Christ demonstrated love in all his activities, and the apostle Paul wrote: “You yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9) “True Christians are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,” observed a staff writer for the Vancouver Sun. “They would never, never intentionally hurt one another.”
Clearly, the churches bear heavy responsibility for today’s lack of love. An article published in the magazine India Today observed: “Religion has been the banner under which the most hideous crimes have been perpetrated.” There is a fundamental reason, however, why our generation has been marked by such heartless disregard for others.
Why Love Has Cooled Off
Our Creator gives the answer. His Word, the Bible, calls the time in which we live “the last days.” Bible prophecy says that this is a period during which people would have “no natural affection.” Regarding these “critical times hard to deal with,” also called in the Scriptures “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus Christ foretold that “the love of the greater number will cool off.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:3, 12.
Today’s lack of love, therefore, is part of the evidence that we are living in the last days of this world. Happily, it also means that this world of ungodly people will soon be replaced by a righteous new world ruled by love.—Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Peter 3:7, 13.
But do we really have reason to believe that such a change is possible—that we will be able to live in a world where all people will love one another and live together in peace?