FROM LOVE TO LOVING
Let's start with a prayer: Father, Mother, God; as I come into your presence, I lay aside all human likes and dislikes, all sense desires and flesh emotions. I cease struggling after things, cease striving. Knowing that I am your beloved child, I am free from worry and anxiety. I am not fearful of anything or anybody, for underneath and about me are your everlasting arms. I forgive as I would be forgiven, for my heart is filled with a realization of your redeeming love. A greater understanding of all comes to me as I sink down in quietness with you. My soul rests in peace and is glad. AMEN.
Rather than realizing we all can experience the power of love by loving, many try to "find love" or "win love" or "get love" only to end up frustrated and resentful. "Loving" (with emphasis on the "ing") is the X-factor that solves the happiness dilemmas with which so many people still struggle.
LOVE IS A SPIRITUAL POWER THAT WE ALL HAVE & WE EXPERIENCE BY LOVING
Love is a spiritual power that we all have & we experience by loving. Remember, there is no opposite of God. Our lives are shaped by the way we make use of our love power or ability, along with all our other powers. This lesson is concerned with the ways we mis-use and use our love power.
What the world needs now is not "love sweet love" but more "loving sweet loving." We already have love - we just need to use it.
Eric Butterworth in his book, Life is for Loving writes, "You cannot give love to anyone, and no one can give love to you. You can be loving, which will create an environment in which others may find it easy to radiate and express love - and thus be loving to you. Love is not a commodity to give, but a process through which you touch and express your own deeper nature. Love, then, is not the plaything of the emotions or senses, but the action of divine law."a
When we get past our hang-ups and fears - loving is what we do naturally. Ours is a loving God and we were created in It's image and likeness. We are naturally loving beings.
When a teacher asked her class to make a list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, one little girl turned in this list:
6. Laughing and
So Loving is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World - if you let it be.
SHIFTING FROM LOVE TO LOVING
Love is not some state we fall "in" and "out of." Love is not something that comes to me from others who "fall" for me. Love is not something I "get" or "win" from parents or others by behaving myself and doing what I'm "supposed" to do.
Our capacity to love is directly dependent upon our ability to love ourselves with a mature self-love. Love is not something to get from people or even from God. For we are already created in and of love. (Jeremiah 31:3) "...I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you; ..."b
"Love your neighbor" means in Hebrew, "act lovingly toward our neighbor." It is not a platitude, but an active process of being and doing. (Mark 12:31) ..."You shall love your neighbor as yourself..."c Jesus knew and taught this profound insight that I cannot love another person unless I know and love myself. Then I am centered concentrically in what I am, and I am "within-dependent" rather than outer- or co-dependent.
The scribe that had asked Jesus, "Which commandment is the first of all" was asking a question that was often debated in rabbinic schools. In the schools there was a double tendency. They either wanted to expand the law into hundreds and thousands of rules - or they would try to gather up the law into one sentence.
Hillel was once asked by a new convert to instruct him in the whole law while he stood on one leg. Hillel's answer was, "What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn."d
Akiba had already said, "`Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'--this is the greatest, general principle in the law."e
And Simon the Righteous had said, "On three things stands the world--on the law, on the worship, and on works of love."f
It was said that Moses received some 613 precepts on Mount Sinai. David reduced the 613 to 11 in Psalms 15, where it says:
"O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
1. He who walks blamelessly.
2. And does what is right.
3. And speaks truth from his heart.
4. Who does not slander with his tongue.
5. And does no evil to his friend.
6. Nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour.
7. In whose eyes the wicked are despised.
8. But who honours those who fear the Lord.
9. Who stands by their oath and does not change.
10. Who does not put out his money at interest.
11. And does not take a bribe against the innocent.g
Isaiah reduced them to 6 in Isaiah 33:15:
"1. He who walks righteously.
2. And speaks uprightly.
3. Who despises the gain of oppressions.
4. Who waves away a bribe instead of accepting it
5. Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed.
6. And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil.
He shall dwell on high."h
Micah reduced the 6 to 3 in Micah 6:8 where it says:
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee?
1. To do justice.
2. To love kindness.
3. To walk humbly with your God."i
Once again Isaiah brought the 3 down to 2 in Isaiah 56:1:
"1. Maintain justice.
2. Do what is right."j
And finally Habakkuk reduced them all to one in Habakkuk 2:4:
"The righteous shall live by his faith."k
There were really two schools of thought. There were those who believed that there were lighter and weightier matters of the law, that there were great principles which were all-important to grasp. As Augustine later said, "Love God--and do what you like."l
But there were others who were against this, who held that every smallest principle was equally binding and that to try to distinguish between their relative importance was highly dangerous. The expert who asked Jesus this question was asking about something which was a living issue in Jewish thought and discussion.
For the answer Jesus took two great commandments and put them together.
(1) "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."m That single sentence is the real creed of Judaism (Deuteronomy 6:4). It is called the Shema. It was the sentence with which the service of the synagogue always began and still begins. The full Shema is Deut.6:4-9, Deut.11:13-21, Num.15:37-41. It is the declaration that God is the only God, the foundation of Jewish monotheism.
When Jesus quoted this sentence as the first commandment, every devout Jew would agree with him.
And then the second one... "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."n That is a quotation from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus did one thing with it. In its original context it has to do with a man's fellow Jew. It would not have included the Gentile, whom it was quite permissible to hate. But Jesus quoted it without qualification and without limiting boundaries. He took an old law and refined it with a new meaning.
The new thing that Jesus did was to put these two commandments together. No rabbi had ever done that before. There is only one suggestion of connection previously. Round about 100 B.C. there was composed a series of tractates called The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, in which an unknown writer put into the mouths of the patriarchs some very fine teaching. In The Testament of Issachar (5: 2) we read:
"Love the Lord and love your neighbour,
Have compassion on the poor and weak."o
In the same testament (7: 6) it says:
"I loved the Lord,
Likewise also every man with my whole heart."p
In The Testament of Dan (5: 3):
"Love the Lord through all your life,
And one another with a true heart."q
But no one, until Jesus, put the two commandments together and made them one. Religion to him was loving God and loving men. He would have said that the only way in which a man can prove that he loves God is by showing that he loves men - and this includes yourself.
The scribe willingly accepted this and went on to say that such a love was better than all sacrifices. In that he was in line with the highest thought of his people.
Long, long ago Samuel had said, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."r (1 Samuel 15:22.) Hosea had heard God say, "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice."s (Hosea 6:6.)
But it is always easy to let ritual take the place of love. It is always easy to let worship become a matter of the Church building instead of a matter of the whole life.
In the story of the Good Samaritan last week; the priest and the Levite could pass by the wounded traveler because they were eager to get on with the ritual of the temple.
This scribe had risen beyond his contemporaries and that is why he found himself in sympathy with Jesus.
There must have been a look of love in Jesus' eyes, and a look of appeal as he said to him, "You have gone so far. Will you not come further and accept my way of things? Then you will be a true citizen of the Kingdom."
A SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT IN LOVING
Why should we be loving, forgiving, caring, hugging, peace-making, coming together, self-respecting, praying for others? Why?
Because we can't afford not to. We can't afford not to be loving.
Would you like to do a scientific experiment? I mean, do you really want to find out if this stuff works - or if I'm just flapping my gums up here? How many of you want to play?
Then make a commitment right now to be a spiritually minded person of science. Take this "love principle" and go into the laboratory of your life. Apply love by loving. Know it will "work" and "demonstrate itself." Use the "loving action" not to change others but to open your own consciousness to a fuller experience of God-love and all the blessings that are added to your life and living.
In your program you were given a checklist: Check the loving actions that you will especially experiment with in this week and in following weeks.
I will affirm God is Love and I am loving.
I will think twice before putting myself down or depreciating myself.
I will realize I deserve good treatment and will ask for and feel comfortable with respect.
I won't let others use me or run over me, telling myself I'm being loving.
I will practice listening to my self-talk, avoiding "poor me" and "I'm just chopped liver" expressions toward myself.
I will practice listening with my heart to others and say back to them what I hear them saying.
I will give and receive more hugs.
I will give it the "light touch" and be more playful.
I will pray for others, especially those I am having trouble with, desiring only good to come to them.
I will think globally and act locally in working for integrity, protection of the planet and all people and peace.
Experiment with one or more of these this week - then let us know next Sunday what happened. Keep track during the week so you can report in on Sunday.
Let me close today with two of my favorite philosophers:
Goethe said, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."
Mark Twain said, "Always do right - this will gratify some and astonish the rest."
aEric Butterworth Life is for Loving
dHillel the Elder, a Jewish sage
eAkiva ben Yosef, also known as Rabbi Akiva, was a leading Jewish scholar and sage
fSimeon the Righteous: served as high priest and head of the "Sanhedrin" for 40 years
lSaint Augustine, was a theologian and philosopher
oIssachar 5: 2
qDan 5: 3
r1 Samuel 15:22