Chapter 5 — Learning to Love
You have heard people say, “I don’t know what it means to love God. How can I love Him, when I don’t know Him?” Maybe you’ve said that yourself. I have.
But Jesus Christ said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” Does this mean that obedience is love? or does it mean that obedience is the evidence of love? or does it mean that obedience is the road to love? Does it matter which it means? “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”
What did Jesus Himself do? He “went about doing good.” He knew how to love God. Did you ever wonder what His early life must have been, before He began His ministry? I wonder if perhaps He did not spend all that first thirty years of His life learning how to love God by keeping His commandments; and how to love His neighbors by serving them. It seems to me that that must have been what He did, and that that is the explanation of all His wonderful power to help and heal and serve—and love. Just think of that young Jewish boy, whom the world called Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, going quietly about “doing good” all through His youth and young manhood, and learning that it was the secret of power. Think of thirty years spent just learning the marvelous results of simply doing good. What a love developed in Him!
Don’t you think love would develop in you and in me, if we made it our whole business to serve the good—which is God—and our neighbors? Psychologists say that when we do another person a favor we become interested in him as if we had an investment in him. The more we do for him the more interested we are in him. If we do much, we come to love him. Maybe one of the explanations of the love of mothers for their children is that mothers do so much for their children.
We do not love our friends for what they do for us. Most of us would readily admit that the joy of love is in giving. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I wonder if that’s not because the blessing of the giver is that he grows to know what love is, what it means to him, the lover. What experience have you ever had in loving? Did you get your greatest happiness in that love out of what the loved one did for you? Was your greatest joy in the fact that loved one loved you? Or was your happiness—your joy—in loving, and expressing it by every means you could find?
One of the magazines some years ago published a story about a young man who went to work in the foreign correspondence department of a mercantile house in New York. He had very little experience, but he was full of enthusiasms. He was full of wants and desires.
It happened that the firm had tried for years to get the business of a great manufacturer of Panama hats in a certain South American country. But no salesman or buyer for the American house had ever been able to get an order or a bill of goods from the Panama hatters. Some reason kept the foreign firm from doing business with the New York concern.
But our young man—let’s call him Smart—wanted a Panama hat. He thought maybe he could get one—a fine one that would otherwise be beyond his modest means at home—by asking the manufacturers in the southern clime to send him one. So he sat himself down and wrote a letter asking the head of the Panama hatters to send him a fine Panama—at a price he could afford to pay. And strangely enough, the foreign hatter, seeing an opportunity to do the New York importer a favor, seized upon it. He got the hat for young Smart and sent it to him with his compliments.
But the queer part of it was the sequel. After the hat was received young Smart followed up by asking Mr. Panama Hatter for a share of his business for the New York house. And Mr. P. H. found himself so interested in young Smart, and in the firm he worked for, because Mr. P. H. had done him a favor, that he listened to reason—with the result that he became persuaded to enter upon regular business relations. To the amazement of his employers, young Smart got the Panama hatters’ business—after everybody else had failed.
Humorously that illustrates the principle involved. A recent book called “Strategy in Handling People” tells many similar stories and presents the same principle. If you want anybody to like you or favor you, get him to do you a favor. And if it works that way, it will work the other way too. If you want to be interested in somebody else, or to love him, do something for him.
What a light that sheds on human relations! How many divorces do you suppose would be prevented, if people just knew that principle and acted upon it. Yet the teaching of Jesus on that single point antedated modern psychology and modern strategy in handling people by some nineteen hundred years.
It is strange, when you stop to think of it, how all the theories and maxims and rules point back to the same basic principle. The way to receive what we want is to give to others what we should want them to give us. The way to love is to give. Give service. Did you ever know a servant who did not like the master or mistress whom he served faithfully? Did you ever know an employee who did not speak well of an employer to whom he was giving real, faithful service? Did you ever work for anybody you did not like, and give him full service without coming to like him?
You know, we are quite helpless against this law—because it is a law. We cannot help loving where we serve. If it is our country, or our city, or our club, or our lodge, or our church; if we are real workers in behalf of any organization, we shall love it. Unless we are workers, our affection will be cool at the best.
Did you ever keep a garden, or bees, or chickens, or cattle, or horses, or teach school, or wait on customers, or serve in any capacity where your labor contributed directly to the welfare of animals or men or children? If you have, nobody can tell you anything about this principle. You cannot help knowing it if your work was faithfully done. You could not help loving if your service was true and loyal and devoted.
If there is anybody that you feel you should love and that you find it hard not to hate, try doing something for him—something real, such as you would want somebody else to do for you. It works wonders in you! What causes your feeling of dislike, or anger, or hatred toward another person? Isn’t it more often than not a consciousness of having injured him? Is there any surer way to hatred than to do another an injury? Isn’t that axiomatic, and isn’t it good psychology too?
If I find that I do not love God—the good—I’d better look out. It simply means I am not serving Him. Perhaps it means that I am trying to oppose Him, disobeying His commandments, injuring some of His children, working against the kingdom. And if I find that I am coming to love God, the good; what does it mean? Shouldn’t it be a source of great reassurance that the good is really dear to me? But then, if it is, nobody has to tell me the reason. I know, or at any rate I have a working principle that fills me with satisfaction and happiness.
Like all great principles it works both ways. Serving gives birth to loving; and loving to serving. It sets up what we call a benign circle—blessing piled upon blessing, good reacting in good, joy reacting in happiness.
“Bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Why? Because it will make me love them. But why should I love them? Because that is the commandment of the God whom I want to learn to love.
Love is its own reward. Nobody who does not love knows anything about love. But we do not have to be ignorant—the way is plain. The way to the greatest joy that ever was conceived—loving the God who is love and who so constituted human hearts that they take fire with happiness at the only true communion with Him that is possible—the love of the heart for divine love.