Sometimes we find ourselves in a bind. We feel like we’re being selfish when we spend more time with certain friends and ignore others we don’t like as much.
Christ calls us to love everyone, even our enemies and those who irk us. But does that mean you need to love everyone to the same degree?
No. Here’s why.
There is an ordo amoris.
Ordo amoris (“order of love”) means there is a ranking among those who have a claim on your heart. This order is as old as creation itself.
It is based on likeness and union. A principle of love is likeness. In order to love a thing, you have to recognize it as somehow like you, pertaining to you, or applying to you. If it’s not like you in any way, it wouldn’t attract you.
St. Thomas Aquinas explains it as a recognition of a good that fits you. It’s something that builds up and makes us who we are meant to be.
As a result, our loves are sorted based on what is most intimate to us or what we share the most in common with.
Union is another principle of this order of love. The basis of unity between you and another person is the degree to which that thing can inhabit the same space or live the same life.
We start with God. God is more intimate to you than you are to yourself! That’s why He claims the top spot in the order of love.
What should we love next after God?
This one may surprise you. Many Christians would say that the order of love is God, others, self. But St. Thomas and St. Augustine say that self comes after God. That’s because you are more like yourself than you are like those around you.
It’s on the basis of your union with God and yourself that you then reach out to others.
How do we sort out our love of others?
Following the principles above, we rank our love of others based on likeness and union. You are more responsible for your family than your co-workers. You should love your countrymen more than people in a nation you have no connection with.
Consider this: There are two children drowning in a lake in front of you. One is your child; the other is a child who may grow up to cure cancer. You can only save one.
Who do you save? Your child! You were brought into this world to love your child. He or she has more of a claim on your life than a random stranger.
Your relationships are not an accident. God willed you to be born into your family and meet the various people you encounter in life. Your embrace of that is an abandonment to His divine will. You become holy by responding in love to these “limitations” on your freedom.
You should love everyone. But if you love everyone vaguely and equally, you’ll miss out on loving those appointed to you as deeply as you should.