85 A common view these days is that we should consider all people to be our friends on an equal basis, and that we should help people who are too poor to support themselves. But good Christian sense tells us we should take a close look at how people a re living and show kindness to them accordingly. Deeply religious people make these distinctions, which means they show kindness to people intelligently. But superficially religious people cannot make these distinctions, so they show kindness to people in discriminately.
86 The difference in people has to do with the good qualities in them. This is something every religious person should understand. Since all goodness comes from the Lord, he is our friend in the highest sense and on a level above everyone else. We get our ability to be one another's friends from him.
So the more people have the Lord inside them, the more they are our friends. Since no two people accept the Lord (which we do by accepting goodness from him) in the same way, no two people can be our friends in the same way. Everyone in heaven and ev ery good person on earth has different good qualities--no two people are ever exactly the same. There have to be differences so that each of us can have our own individual existence.
However, nobody, not even an angel, can know all the different ways in which people accept the Lord (that is, how they accept goodness from him). So we cannot make fine distinctions about exactly how each person is our friend; we can only get a rough idea of the general types of relationships, and of the variations in them. And all the Lord asks of religious people is that we live according to what we know.
87 Since we all have different good qualities, it follows that people's good qualities determine the level of their relationship to us as friends. The Lord makes this clear in his parable about the man who fell into the hands of robbers and was left h alf dead. A priest walked right by him, and so did a Levite. But a Samaritan bandaged his wounds and poured oil and wine on them. Then he put the man on his own animal, took him to an inn, and arranged for him to be cared for. The Samaritan was a friend t o the man because he acted from the good of kindness (Luke 10:29-37).
From this example we can understand that people are our friends when they are doing good things. The oil and wine that the Samaritan poured on the wounds symbolize good qualities and the true ideas that go with them.
88 We can see from what I have said that goodness is our friend in the broadest sense, since people are our friends according to the kind of good qualities they have from the Lord. And since goodness is our friend, love is our friend, because all good ness comes from love. So people are our friends according to the kind of love they have from the Lord.
89 By looking at people who are selfish, we can see very clearly that love is what determines friendship, and that people are our friends according to the kind of love they have. When we are selfish, we think of the people who love us most--those in o ur family--as our friends. They are the ones we hug and kiss, help, and call our brothers. In fact, if they are harmful people, we consider them to be closer friends than anyone else. We think of other people as our friends depending on the kind of love t hey have for us, and how much. Since it is love that causes and determines our friendships, we consider ourselves to be what determines friendship.
But when we do not love ourselves more than we love other people, we consider the one we should love more than anyone else--the Lord--to be what determines our friendships. We regard people as our friends according to the kind of love they have in th em--their love for the Lord and also the love in them that comes from him. This is how everyone in the Lord's realm lives.
It is clear from this how we should determine people's relationship to us as friends, if we are religious: people are our friends according to the good qualities from the Lord in them. So goodness is our friend.
90 The Lord was explaining this in Matthew when he told the people who did good things that they had given him something to eat and something to drink, had welcomed him, given him clothes, visited him, and come to him when he was in prison. Then he sa id that whenever they had done these things for one of the least important of his brothers, they had done it for him (Matthew 25:34-40). When the six kinds of goodness mentioned in this passage are understood in their spiritual meaning, they include every possible way of being a friend to people. So you can see that when we love goodness, we are loving the Lord, since the Lord is the source of goodness: he does good things, and he is goodness.
91 It is not just individual people who are our friends, but also groups of people, such as small and large communities, our country, religion, the Lord's realm, and most of all, the Lord himself. All of these are our friends, so we should do good thi ngs for them out of love.
These groups of people are our friends at higher and higher levels. A community with many people in it is our friend at a higher level than an individual person; our country is our friend at an even higher level; religion at an even higher level; the Lord's realm at a still higher level; and the Lord is our friend at the highest level of all. These higher and higher levels are like a staircase with the Lord at the top.
92 A community is our friend at a higher level than an individual person because it has many people in it. We should show kindness to it in the same way we do to an individual person--according to its good qualities. So we should act in a completely d ifferent way toward a community of honest people than toward a community of corrupt people. We are loving our community when we care about its good qualities because we love goodness.
93 Our country is our friend at a higher level than our community because it is like a parent to us. We are born in it, and it supports us and protects us from attacks. We should do good things for our country out of love, according to what it needs. This especially involves its means of support, and the political and spiritual life of its people.
If we love our country and do good things for it because we wish well toward it, then in the other life we will love the Lord's realm, since the Lord's realm is our country there. When we love the Lord's realm, we love the Lord, since the Lord is com pletely involved in everything in his realm.
94 Religion is our friend at a higher level than our country because when we care about religion, we are caring about the souls and the eternal life of our country's people. So when we care about religion out of love, we are loving other people at a h igher level, since our wish and motivation is for other people to find heaven and the happiness of life forever.
95 The Lord's realm is our friend at an even higher level because it is made up of everyone who does good things, both on earth and in heaven. This means that the Lord's realm consists of all the different kinds of goodness that exist, seen as a whole . When we love this, we love every person who does good things.
96 These are the different levels of friends. When we love other people, our love goes higher and higher in these levels. But the levels follow one after the other in order. The higher ones in the order should be considered more important than the low er ones. Since the Lord is highest of all, and should be our central focus on all levels, he is the one we should love more than everyone and everything else. From this you can see the connection between loving the Lord and loving other people.
97 People often say we should love ourselves--meaning we should take care of ourselves first. But the perspective on kindness shows how we should understand this idea. We should all provide ourselves with the things we need to live: food, clothes, a p lace to live, and the many other things we need to live in our society. We should do this not just for ourselves, but for our family too, and not just for the present, but for the future as well. Unless we obtain for ourselves the things we need to live, we will not be in any position to show kindness to other people, since we will not have enough of anything ourselves.
98 Here is how we should love ourselves: We should all provide food and clothing for our bodies before we do anything else. But our reason for doing this should be to have a healthy mind in a healthy body. We should all provide food for our minds too- -meaning intelligence and wisdom. The reason for this is to put ourselves in a position to work for our fellow citizens, human society, our country, and religion--which means working for the Lord. When we do this, we are doing a good job of providing for ourselves to eternity. So you can see that the important thing is the reason we provide for ourselves, since this reason is what we have in mind in everything we do.
As an analogy, when we build a house, we put the foundation in first. But the foundation is built for the house, and the house is built to live in. If we think loving ourselves is the most important thing, it is like thinking the foundation is the pu rpose of our building, rather than the house, or having a place to live. Actually, having a place to live is our primary, underlying purpose--the house with its foundation is just a way to achieve this.
99 The reason we do things shows how we love ourselves and take care of ourselves first. If we want to be richer than other people just for the sake of money, pleasure, status, or anything like that, we have a bad reason for wanting wealth. We do not love other people--we love ourselves. But if we want to obtain wealth or a certain position for ourselves so that we will be able to care for our fellow citizens, human society, our country and religion, then we do love other people.
Our basic reason for doing what we do makes us the person we are, since that is what we love. Whatever we love more than anything else--that is our primary and underlying reason for doing things.
So far I have been talking about what it is in other people that we should love. Now I will talk about loving other people, or "kindness."
100 Many people think loving other people means giving to poor people, supporting people who do not have enough to get by, and doing good things for everyone we come across. But kindness is doing things sensibly so that good will come from them. If we support poor and deprived people who are wrongdoers, we are harming other people through them. The help we give them only supports them in their harmful actions: it supplies them with what they need to hurt other people. It is different when we come to t he aid of good people.
101 However, kindness is much broader than just helping poor and deprived people. Kindness is doing what is right in all of our actions, and doing what we should in every job. If judges do their job impartially for the sake of justice, they are showin g kindness. If they punish people who are guilty and acquit people who are not guilty, they are showing true kindness, because they are caring for their fellow citizens and their country. Ministers who teach what is true and lead people to goodness for th e sake of truth and goodness are showing kindness. But if we do these things for our own benefit and for the sake of material gain, we are not showing kindness, because we are loving ourselves and not other people.
102 This broader meaning of "kindness" applies to all the rest of us too, whether we have a job or not--children toward their parents and parents toward their children, workers toward their employers and employers toward the workers, citizens toward t heir leaders and leaders toward the citizens. When we fulfill our obligations because that is what we should do, and when we do what is fair because it is fair, then we are showing kindness.
103 The reason loving other people (or kindness) has this meaning is that, as I said before, every person is our friend, but each in a different way. Smaller and larger communities are our friends in a higher way, our country in an even higher way, th e Lord's realm in a still higher way, and the Lord highest of all. In the broadest sense, the goodness that comes from the Lord is our friend. This means honesty and fairness are also our friends.
So if we do good things for people just because we want to do what is good, and if we do things honestly and fairly just because we want to be honest and fair, we love other people, and we are showing kindness. Our actions come from a love of goodnes s, honesty, and fairness--which means we are doing things out of a love for good, honest, and fair people.
104 So kindness is an inner desire that makes us want to do good things even if we do not get anything in return. It is the joy of our life to do them. When we do good things from this inner desire, there is kindness in everything we think, say, want, and do. You could even say that as people or as angels, when we think of goodness as our friend, we are kindness in our inner self. That is how broad kindness is.
105 When selfishness and materialism are our reasons for doing things, we cannot possibly be kind people. We do not even know what kindness is. We have no concept at all that wanting and doing good things for other people--and not just to get somethin g out of it--is heaven in us. We cannot comprehend that there could be as much happiness in the desire to do good things as the angels in heaven have--and the happiness of the angels cannot even be described! We think that if the enjoyment from the presti ge of status and wealth were taken away from us, there would be nothing left to enjoy. Actually, that is where heavenly enjoyment first begins--and it is infinitely greater.
Back to Contents