To Love, to Live
THE other day I was reading in this newspaper about a man in Ethiopia who delivers relief supplies to his fellow countrymen. He risks death from the war there and he knows it. Asked if he is ever afraid, he answers, ``Of course.... But what can you do? Our people must eat.''1 Another man, whose children suffer from not having enough to eat, voluntarily cuts his own ration because he has a neighbor whose children are in even greater need.
Where do the strength and love come from that motivate such healing and saving acts? I asked myself that question recently when a homeless person asked me for a quarter. The request actually began while I was yet several paces away from the person, walking toward where he was standing. Instantly a number of all-too-familiar questions ran through my mind: ``How did he get in this condition? Will condoning such begging by complying with the request be morally beneficial? Do I actually want to have contact with this person? What do I think would really help this man most, and what would he have to do to change?''
The questions didn't all come in complete sentences just like that, but you get the idea. Then, all of a sudden, my response surprised me. I reached into my pocket, took out some money, and laid it in the man's hand. Then we started to talk. Not judgmentally, not separated by class distinctions; we just talked like two people who cared for each other. That man did more for me than he probably knows. I felt love that went far beyond all those doubts and questions that had risen like heat billowing up from a hot summer pavement.
I could feel that this love didn't simply come from either one of us as only a personal, private virtue. It was something that surrounded both of us and caused an interchange that probably neither of us had anticipated a few moments earlier.
What is this love that causes someone to drive a truck eleven hours a night in dangerous, life-threatening circumstances, that causes a neighbor to care so deeply about another's children, or intervenes so unexpectedly and can't be forgotten?
There's a poem written by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. It's entitled simply ``Love.'' It tells of an abiding spiritual affection that alone brings lasting satisfaction to our lives. At one point the poem talks about praying that the spirit that moved Christ Jesus' life might become the spirit that moves us. And then near the end the poem reaches its ultimate and affirms that Life is Love:
Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife. Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life....2
Don't we usually think that ``life'' is this great big thing that needs many other things to make it happy -- one of the things being love? Almost as if you could have life without love, or without much of it? But in the Science of Christianity one begins to discover that love is far more than merely a single element of life, or a human quality that can be given or withheld.
In the New Testament book of I John, God is described as Love itself. ``God is love;'' the writer of that book says, ``and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.''3 Here love is no mere personal virtue; it is the actual nature of God. It is divine Love that gives life and purpose and value to all of us. This can't be taken away. This divine giving, or creating, constitutes man's true, spiritual selfhood. We come to understand our real, spiritual nature as we love, as we reflect or express God who is divine Love.
As we begin to understand something of this spiritual identity, we'll understand where the strength and courage and unselfishness come from that lift men and women to heights of brotherhood and mutual affection.
Eventually, we can come to see that an understanding of man as the spiritual image and likeness of God releases such love in us that this understanding has the capacity to root out evil and to heal physical as well as emotional ills. This is the metaphysical basis that underlies Christian healing and unites us all in a common spiritual interest. If there is to be healing and improvement in the world, and this must come, it can and will be securely established in a deeper spiritual understanding of God and of man as His spiritual child.
1Monitor, April 25, 1990. 2Poems, p. 7. 3I John 4:16.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. BIBLE VERSE And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.... That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days.
Deuteronomy 30:6, 20