Bernard of Clairvaux on Basic Love and the Poor!
What was most interesting to me was that when Bernard was describing the four loves possible by humans, the very basic one that he thought all people should be characterized by was a love that involved Justice. He describes it as loving ourselves for our own sake but he says, "Should a man feel overburdened at satisfying not only his brethren's just needs but also their pleasures... He can be indulgent as he likes for himself providing he remembers his neighbor has the same rights... Then your love will be sober and just if you do not refuse your brother that which he needs of what you have denied yourself in pleasure. Thus carnal love becomes social when it is extended to others" (On Loving God 8.23) (This is quoted from Tamburello, 95)
This is the basic of all love. It is the first stage. It is the most selfish. It is most marred by a life of sin and yet Bernard still believes that it is characterized by denying ourselves so that our neighbors can have their needs met. He doesn't specify whether or not this neighbor is believer or non-believer. I would venture to guess that it is all people as scripture usually interpret neighbor as anyone. He did warn that it could lead to self-indulgent sin, but mostly thought that it was the first step towards a greater love, even more unselfish love.
If only the church loved like this!
Notes: Bernard is writing this as a monk writing in the years 1120 - 1130.