Why We Can Do What Absolutely Bewildered Sigmund Freud

Jesus’ command to love our neighbor and especially to love our enemies made no sense to Sigmund Freud.

“Freud says this commandment, along with “love your enemies,” absolutely bewilders him. He simply cannot understand it. He asks: ‘Why should we do it? What good will it do us? But, above all, how shall we achieve it? How can it be possible? My love is something valuable to me which I ought not to throw away without reflection… If I love someone, he must deserve it in some way… He deserves it if he is so like me in important ways that I can love myself in him; and he deserves it if he is so much more perfect than myself that I can love my ideal of my own self in him…’” –The Question of God: CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armand Nicholi

Freud did not believe in God. And he certainly did not believe in Jesus Christ. So he could have no concept of loving someone who didn’t “deserve it in some way.” Freud said for him to love someone that person had to be so like him he could love himself in him. Or that person would have to be “so much more perfect than” himself to that he could love the ideal of himself he saw in that person.

This is exactly the opposite of God. God loved us before he created the heavens and the earth.

…I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3

And God loved us when we were as absolutely undeserving as we could be:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. RO 5.8

We could never have been perfect enough for God, the holy one, in whom is unapproachable, glorious blazing light and beauty and perfection to love. We were not simply imperfect, we were vile, filthy, unclean, repugnant sinners in his sight.

Yet God loved us. And he sent his son Jesus to redeem us. And when we believed in Jesus and called upon him, God saved us and plunged us into Jesus making us one with him in his death, burial and resurrection life. Now God sees us in Christ justified, sons and daughters, and joint-heirs with his son. And day by day God is taking us from one degree of glory to another, conforming us more and more into the likeness of his son. When God looks on us, he sees Jesus in us.

God continues to love us though we never deserve it. He loves us as a gift. Freely he bestows his love upon us and nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. All he does in our lives he does in love, not because we deserve it, but because he is loving and glorious.

That is why we love others and do good to them. That’s why we’re to love even our enemies. Not because it will do us any good or love us back. Jesus commands us to do good to our enemies “expecting nothing in return.”

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I JN 10.4-11

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. MT 10.8

We don’t love others only if they deserve it or if they are like us, or because of anything good in them. We are to love freely like Christ. We are to love the undeserving, the unloving, the weak, the annoying, the proud, the ignorant, the loud, the boastful, the arrogant, the unlovable, and those who hate our guts. Those who don’t care about us. We are to love freely and generously like our Lord Jesus loves us.

Not only did Freud not understand why we should love our enemies but he asked, “But, above all, how shall we achieve it? How can it be possible?” Like all Jesus’ commands, they are impossible for us to achieve in our own strength. But Freud knew nothing of the grace of God, the power of God to do all he commands.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. PHP 4.13

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, EPH 3.16

We can love the unlovable as we pray for God’s grace. As we run to the throne of grace for “help in time of need.”

So who comes to your mind as you read this? Ask God for grace to love them as he loved you.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.