I have been slowly working through Soren Kierkegaard’s treatise, Works of Love. The majority of the book examines the biblical mandate you shall love your neighbor. The book has been quite challenging to read. I say this not because it is Kierkegaard’s most difficult book to comprehend. No. For that, see The Concept of Anxiety. Works of Love is challenging for the personal depth of the individual. This challenge is not merely conceptual but rather ought to have a significant impact on how one operates and functions on a daily basis.
I came to a brief section of the book which discusses the distinctions made in what Kierkegaard calls “earthly love.” This form of love is not the type referred to in the biblical order to love thy neighbor. Earthly love, especially in the romantic sense, comes and goes (sometimes with ease). It is temporal. It fades. And, more importantly, earthly love is often founded on distinctions. Humanity lives, thrives, and operates (supposedly) well off formulated distinctions. These may result from differences among gender, race, social class, nationality, or lifestyle. While these distinctions seem to naturally form, they often subconsciously influence how one is capable of loving. Can one learn to love beyond these distinctions? Kierkegaard posits a affirmative response, but one must be able to transcend these earthly distinctions.
When the Bible teaches to love one’s neighbor, Kierkegaard asserts a love that is itself separate from the earthly love so prevalently seen in our daily routine. Eternal love is loving one’s neighbor in the imitation of the love God has for humanity. God loves all. God’s salvific plan is available to all. It has no prejudice, no segregation. It is unbiased and pure. This form of love teaches that “everyone shall lift (one)self above earthly distinctions.” All people are equally called to transcend earthly distinctions. The poor must transcend the poorness. The rich shall transcend the richness. This does not negate their earthly situation; it simply maintains unity amongst people which society may stipulate are different.
The problem lies in one’s inability to lift oneself above earthly distinction. The poor compartmentalize themselves in their situation inasmuch as the rich. These temporal distinctions prohibit eternal love from properly manifesting amongst the earthly condition. This issue is not one which must be glanced through with haste. I posit that the ignorance of the point that Kierkegaard is making plays a significant role in the misunderstanding between different peoples. Whether it be race riots, gender wars, or even the much debated healthcare reform that currently has America embedded in its own constructed classes, the misunderstanding of different types of people stems from the enmeshment in earthly love. The rich man may never know what it is like to sleep one a park bench (a now illegal action in the city of Denver) inasmuch as the poor man may never know what it is like to drive an expensive car. Neither of these lifestyles is inherently wrong. But the lack of understanding between these two men still yet persists. What is dialog amongst Democrats and Republicans if neither attempts to understand the other side? Disagreement may still manifest, but a better comprehension and understanding of each other may catapult discussions. There exists in our world a severe lack of eternal love for one another. The rich’s neighbor is the other rich. The white man’s love is for those in his same social class. While hatred here may not be explicit, the implicit lack of eternal love reduces our ability to understand one another and therefore help one another. To what end are you capable and willing to transcend the earthly distinctions you operate by?
You shall love your neighbor.
 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, trans. Howard and Edna Hong (New York: HarperPerennial, 2009), 83. Italic correction mine.