Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday's Faith - The Work of Love in Remembering One Dead: "The Most Unselfish Love" ~Søren Kierkegaard, Part One

"If we are to love the men we see, then we are also to love those whom we have seen but see no more because death took them away.... 

"(O)ne must remember the dead; 
weep softly, but grieve long."

Friday's Faith

The Work of Love in Remembering One Dead:

"The Most Unselfish Love"

~Søren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)

Part One

"Beloved, let us love one another."

1 John 4:7a (NASB)


In this hardened world we live in, even many Christians can be so ignorant as to say to us child-loss grievers, 

"Are you still grieving your child? Doesn't it make a difference for you that you have God?!" 

A good friend of ours, who is a Christian, actually said those words to Tommy and me, just one year after Merry Katherine's death. Thus, it is so refreshing to hear a brilliant man such as Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author, Søren Kierkegaard "get it" when he says quite the opposite in one of his premier writings, Works of Love. So, in the next several weeks, I would love to share with you some of the gold mine of his works by sharing large excerpts from his chapter nine entitled, "The Work of Love in Remembering One Dead."

It is important for us to know why this God-dedicated man could "get it" when so many Christians around us seem so maddeningly clueless: 
"Five of Kierkegaard's seven children died before he did."


Kierkegaard wrote about the love of God working intimately in the lives of individuals as opposed to the group-think we often see in today's church. In The Philosophy of Religion, Otto Pfleiderer wrote about Kierkegaard: "

"Hence (Kierkegaard's) passionate polemic against ecclesiastical Christianity, which he says has fallen away from Christ by coming to a peaceful understanding with the world and conforming itself to the world's life."

He went on to say,

"Kierkegaard can only find true Christianity in entire renunciation of the world, in the following of Christ in lowliness and suffering especially when met by hatred and persecution on the part of the world."

A note to the reader: Kierkegaard himself recommended that those who read his words, read them aloud: "I beg you to read aloud, if possible." This has been very helpful to me in being able to better understand their meaning.


From Works of Love:
(translated by Howard and Edna Hong)

Kierkegaard prefaces his book, Works of Love, with a prayer to the very God of Love. Here is an excerpt from his prayer: 

"How could love be rightly discussed if You were forgotten, O God of Love, source of all love in heaven and on earth, You who spared nothing but gave all in love, You who are love, so that one who loves is what he is only by being in You! How could love properly be discussed if You were forgotten, You who made manifest what love is, You, our Saviour and Redeemer, who gave Yourself to save all! How could love be rightly discussed if You were forgotten, O Spirit of Love, You who take nothing for Your own but remind us of that sacrifice of love, remind the believer to love as he is loved, and his neighbour as himself! O Eternal Love, You who are everywhere present and never without witness wherever you are called upon, be not without witness in what is said here about love or about the works of love."


In chapter 9 of his book, Works of Love, Kierkegaard first challenges us to go to the graveyard, "in order there to get a look at life":

"See, out here is the place to think about life, to get an overview with the help of this brief summary which abbreviates all the complicated extensiveness of relationships. How, then, in a piece on love could I leave unused this occasion for making a test of what love essentially is? In truth, if you really want to make sure about love in yourself or in another person, then note how he relates himself to one who is dead....

"...(W)hen one relates himself to one who is dead, in this relationship there is only one, for one dead is nothing actual. No one, absolutely no one, can make himself nobody as one dead can, for he is nobody; consequently there can be no talk here about irregularities in observations; here the living becomes revealed; here he must show himself exactly as he is, because one who is dead---yes, he is a clever fellow---has withdrawn himself completely; he has not the slightest influence, either disturbing or helping, on the living person who relates himself to him. One who is dead is not an actual object; he is only the occasion which continually reveals what resides in the one living who relates himself to him....

"But we do have duties toward the dead. 

"If we are to love the men we see, then we are also to love those whom we have seen but see no more because death took them away....

"...(O)ne must remember the dead; weep softly, but grieve long."

"How long cannot be decided in advance, because no one remembering can with certainty know how long he will be separated from the dead. But he who in love remembers one dead can make his own ~ some words from the psalm of David in which there is also discussion of remembering:

"If I forget thee, let my right hand forget its cunning; let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember thee, if I do not prefer thee above my chief joy..."
~Psalm 137:5-6 (KJV)

"Therefore, among the works of love, let us not forget this, let us not forget to consider


"The work of love in remembering one who is dead is a work of the MOST UNSELFISH love." be continued

Picture, thanks to "Grieving Mothers"
More about Søren Kierkegaard:
Scriptures: NASB = New American Standard Bible, KJV = King James Version


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