Working to love others?
An article printed last year in this newspaper quoted Pete Rose, one of baseball's all-time leading hitters: ''My father taught me that the only way you can become good at something is to practice. It's easy to practice what you're already good at, and that's what most people do. What's tough is to go out and work on the things you don't do very well.'' n1
n1 The Christian Science Monitor,m June 22, 1981
Rose's statement challenges me. How hard am I willing to work in order to express more love toward my fellowman? What about the people I find particularly difficult to love?
To love consistently requires diligent practice and devotion of time and thought - just as practice and devotion are needed to develop a sharp batting eye. But we often think that love somehow just happens. It appears to be a mysterious, fickle force that is here today and gone tomorrow. The frequency of divorce, friction between employers and employees, border disputes and other conflicts between nations, make love seem elusive at best.
Is the answer to give up on love? Maybe to postpone our efforts to live it? Or is the solution to labor more earnestly in seeking to love others?
If one is truly willing to work, hate-filled circumstances can be transformed. The work begins in our own consciousness. We can begin by embracing and obeying the teachings on love found in the New Testament. Love, Christ Jesus taught us, is to be lived regardless of what others are doing. We are not to let another's malice deprive us of feeling and expressing love. Jesus once asked: ''If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? . . . And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?'' n2 Tn2 Matthew 5:46.
We are to love even those who appear quite unlovable. Especially those who appear quite unlovable! For these may need our affection most, not least. Yet our work isn't to try desperately to love an unlovable mortal. It's to discern the truth of man's being -- to realize that everyone is actually God's perfect spiritual image, the very expression of divine Love, despite appearances to the contrary. God, omnipotent Love itself, supports every one of our efforts in this direction.
God's love is not mysterious or fickle. It is eternal, ever present, and tremendously healing. As we work persistently to express His love, we see anger and selfishness drain away, criticism and injustice fade out -- not only in our own thoughts and actions but in the people we embrace in love. We discover that it is our very nature to love consistently -- and the true nature of others, as God's offspring, to be lovable.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has written , ''In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, -- self-will, self-justification , and self-love, -- which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death.'' n3
n3 Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures, m p. 242. his labor may include some challenging questions: ''Do I justify an occasional outburst of temper? Rationalize bits of destructive criticism? Overlook the legitimate needs of a neighbor or family member?''
Endeavoring to identify loveless thinking is a key step in overcoming loveless behavior. The batter may make significant progress once he discovers that he should refrain from swinging at curve balls outside the strike zone. Similarly, as we identify hatred, in whatever form, as unnecessary and unwise, we can practice refraining from it.
God enables us to leave hatred today. He has not created it. As the Bible tells us, ''God is love.'' n4 When we practice day after day seeing ourselves and others as creations of divine Love, we'll feel its power and support.
n4 I John 4:8.
If we are willing to let Love be expressed in us, there is no limit to the love we can feel and live. Our triumphs over hatred may be more satisfying than a batting championship or a sweep of the World Series. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness I Timothy 6:11