Love your neighbor (for your own sake)

A researcher at Harvard, George Vaillant conducted a longitudinal study  with seven other researchers of men they’d  followed since 1938.  They took 268 men at Harvard and followed them all of their lives. It is examined at length here but I have below the nature of this study.

Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.

The authority of these findings stems in large part from the rarity of the source. Few longitudinal studies survive in good health for whole lifetimes, because funding runs dry and the participants drift away. Vaillant managed, drawing on federal grants and private gifts, to finance surveys every two years, physicals every five years, and interviews every 15 years.

One would think certain traits would show up and we would have a lot of “if this then that” application.  Bob was raised without a good education so then he will experience x, y and maybe z in his life.  What Vaillant and others have realized is that the real outcomes of a happy and fulfilled life for many of these successful men (including a few senators and a president) are summed up by this:

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

It is astounding that across the categories of marriage, family, career, education, wealth, etc  the number one thing this study has found that matters is relationships.

So social, physical, and other sciences have brought us this grand finding.  Thanks modern science!  What God has told humanity thousands of years ago we have revealed to us today.  Sarcasm aside, all that has been complied is very valuable and been put in useful terms thanks to a number of modern practices within science and statistics.  This should be a confirmation of what we should already know.  God values relationships and wants us to value them too.  Not just for some arbitrary reason, but because life is better, more meaningful and more fulfilling loving others.
1) God creates humankind for relationship with others.  He institutes marriage and says its not good to go through life alone (Gen 2:18) Relationships where we care about others, our wives, husbands, children, friends, and family has always been important and will always continue to be.
2) God commands we love others even back to the days of the Israelites. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart…” (Lev 19:17) “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18) “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34)

3) Jesus emphasizes this command when he comes to speak to humankind. When speaking of the greatest commandments, Jesus states that the first is to love God then “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

4) Jesus fulfills this command to love your neighbor as He loves humanity by laying down his life for ours.  It is the ultimate sacrifice and ultimate display of love to die for another (John 15:13)  Jesus shows us eternal love in that His death brings reconciliation to God for humanity.  By Him we will forever live with God one day; and until then we have the perfect example of loving others to follow.

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