Christian love has to be learned. There is natural affection which does not need to be learned – the love of parents for children, of children for parents, and of friend for friend. But it is not natural to love our enemies, to love unlovable people, to be unselfish, or to return kindness for unkindness. We have to learn this love, and it is the great business of life to learn it.
This lesson is written out for us in many parts of the Scriptures. We have it, for example, in Paul’s wonderful chapter on love (1 Cor. 13). It includes patience. “Love suffereth long.” It is not easy to live with all sorts of people and to keep sweet always. In a letter to me from a friend, the problem is stated thus: “How to live victoriously when one does not feel well, has many tasks and duties, and must work with a cranky person.” That is about the same problem for many godly people, and it is not easy. There is only one way of solving it – by love. And natural love will not suffice. Some mothers solve it with their children. Some gentle wives solve it with thoughtless, ungentle husbands. Now and then, a friend solves it with a friend to whom it is not easy to be a friend. But the Christian is to learn to solve it with every kind of person – however disagreeable, unlovable, and uncongenial they may be. He is never to come to the end of his loving. It takes almost infinite patience to love thus – more, at least, than many of us can command!
Love is kind. Kindness has been called the small coin of love. It is not shown in large deeds, as much as in countless little gentle things. Jesus worked a few great miracles; but in between the miracles, all the days, hours, and minutes were filled with kindnesses – little words and acts and looks which no one counted. Love should always abound in kindnesses. Our love should not be kept for great things; but it should flow out continually, like fragrance from a flower, as part of our own life. Love is not something to be merely added to a busy life, as some men have their hobbies to which they turn to rest themselves from their great careers…
Love is generous. It “envieth not.” We have learned the lesson well only when we can rejoice in the joy of others. This is quite as much a part of true love’s sympathy as it is to share the griefs of others. “Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.” We can do the latter more easily than the former. When we find someone in misfortune or in trouble, it is not hard to sympathize with them. But when others are honored more than we are, or prospered more, or when they win success while we fail, or are very happy while we are less so – is it as easy for us to be genuinely glad as it would be to be truly sorry if they were in some kind of grief?
Love is unselfish. It “seeketh not its own.” Unselfishness is at the very heart of all true love. It is the thrusting in of our own selves into our thoughts, feelings, and actions that spoils so much of our living. We love people until it would cost us something to continue to love them, and then we stop short. It isa serious responsibility to accept when we say to anyone, “I will be your friend.” That is what Jesus said to His friends, and then He loved them to the uttermost. That is what “seeketh not its own” means. It may cost us years of self-denial and exhausting service…
Sometimes one finds a sweet freshwater spring beside the sea. When the tide is low, you may take your cup and drink of the pure well; and the water is as fresh as if it flowed from the heart of a rock on the hillside. Then the sea rolls over it; and for long hours, the brackish floods bury the little spring out of sight. But when the tide draws back again, you find the water still as sweet as ever! So also, love should still be in our hearts, even when the black and brackish floods of wrong have swept over them. Love should never lose its sweetness…
These are parts of the great lesson of love. But how can we learn it? Only Christ can teach it to us! We must let the heaven-life enter our hearts. “When we were playing out in the barn today,” said little Marjorie, “the sun shone in through a knot-hole high up in one of the boards; and it made a path – a golden path – away up. I guess if anybody could have walked up on it and slipped out where it came in, he would have found a roadway into heaven!”
The little girl’s imagination was very beautiful. Christian love is just like a shining pencil of light, breaking into our world through a rift in the sky. If we could walk up on it, we would indeed find a footpath into heaven! This love is heaven’s life brought down to earth. Jesus Christ brought it down when He came! He was the first One Who ever loved in this way, in our world; and He wants all His followers to learn to love in the same way – “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” He will teach us the lesson, if we will only desire to learn it. When we have mastered it, we are ready for heaven!
Very likely, if each one of us was honest, we would all admit that we often fall so short of learning the great lesson of love. Have you asked the Lord Jesus to teach you this lesson? Take a moment or two to humbly pray that He would become our Heavenly Teacher, showing us how to imitate Him and love one another in the same way that He loves His friends!
Please don’t hesitate to share your reflections and questions on this article! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
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This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on our website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.