WHY is it so hard to love unselfishly? Virtually every religion on earth stresses the importance of such love, yet as individuals and as nations mankind has shown little consistency in expressing it. No one better exemplified unselfed love than Christ Jesus. In a book based on his teachings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``The substance of all devotion is the reflection and demonstration of divine Love, healing sickness and destroying sin. Our Master said, `If ye love me, keep my commandments.'''1
Surely Jesus would not have made commands beyond our ability to obey, and that includes his commandment ``That ye love one another, as I have loved you.''2 To me Mrs. Eddy's reference to God, divine Love, indicates that man's capacity for fulfilling this demand to love is an aspect of his relation to God. And her use of the word reflection puts that relationship in terms that show us our total dependence on God.
This doesn't relieve us of our individual responsibility to love unselfishly, but it shows us how to meet this responsibility by making God the starting point in everything we do. The value of such an approach lies in its recognition of Spirit's, God's, universal fatherhood. Seeing our fellowman as God's offspring is really the most generous thing we can do. And the unfaltering acknowledgment of another's true identity as His perfect child checks the temptation to withhold or withdraw our love from those who do not conform to what we think they should be. When we recognize in each other our true, spiritual selfhood as God's likeness, we are beginning to see man the way he really is. And this is love in its purest form. It is a healing love that can actually lift us out of harmful circumstances or purge us of undesirable traits.
Because it comes from the Almighty, the impact of such unselfed love can be felt by all upon whom it rests. It is a love, finally, that looks beyond matter to behold the man of God's creating in all his spiritual innocence, wholeness, and freedom.
Confining our view of others to what the eyes and ears report, on the other hand, would limit our ability to love. Who could love a sinful mortal? Who should? The requirements of Christian discipleship are not that we love an evil person, but that we reject evil as a false imposition on man, God's immortal likeness, thus clearing the path for our love to flow effortlessly. Looking only at externals is misleading in other ways, too. An undue focus on physical attributes can lead to a surface attraction that, however strong, is only a mockery of pure, spiritual affection.
Unselfed love doesn't leave out love that includes ourselves. Jesus' reiteration of the command ``Love thy neighbour as thyself''3 points to a love that recognizes one's own divinely endowed qualities and inherent worthiness. In fact, until we've begun to claim our own status as God's beloved child, we cannot truly perceive it in others.
The heartfelt desire to love is blessed by God. For, as John writes, ``God is love,''4 and God supports -- actually impels -- every effort we make to express those qualities that derive from Him. Isn't this man's real purpose -- to be God's creation, to image forth peace, joy, purity, love?
Our actual habitat is Love, God, Himself. Let's find ourselves there and discover who we and our neighbors really are as divine Love's own expression: loving because it is our very nature to love, loving because we cannot do otherwise.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 241. 2John 15:12. 3Matthew 19:19. 4I John 4:8.