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“Being Available To Love”
Metaphysical Lesson Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson:

“Love”
January 23—29, 2023

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Godfrey, Illinois
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com /  office 630-830-8683, cell 630-234-3987


INTRODUCTION

This week’s Golden Text from First Corinthians is a profound promise: “Love never fails” (The New King James Version 1Cor. 13:8). This passage doesn’t refer to the romantic love both celebrated and mourned by minstrel and poet. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and author of its denominational textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, writes of love, “Mortals misrepresent and miscall affection; they make it what it is not, and doubt what it is. … No word is more misconstrued; no sentiment less understood” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 250:4–6, 9–10).

In this Bible verse, Paul is referring to the Greek agape—that deep Christian love that is “the love of God for man and of man for God.” (Liddell and Scott’s Greek—English Lexicon). This is the love that cannot fail. British theologian Adam Clarke (c1760—1832) amplifies the meaning of this:

… [love] is the means of preserving all other graces; indeed, properly speaking, it includes them all; and all receive their perfection from it. Love to God and man can never be dispensed with. It is essential to social and religious life; without it no communion can be kept up with God; … Without it there never was true religion, nor ever can be; and it not only is necessary through life, but will exist throughout eternity.

So then why does the King James Bible use the word “charity” instead of love? Adam Clarke explains that charity originally meant more than donating to the poor. It comes from a Greek word charus meaning “grace and favor on the part of the doer and receiver.” In this way charity makes sense because it’s more about a loving spirit of giving rather than the mere act of giving. According to Clarke, the proper meaning is “dear, costly, a high price.”  We’ll talk about this more in Section 3.

The English word love derives from “the Teutonic leben to live, because love is the means, … and preserver of life; and without it, life would have nothing desirable.” Love is therefore the ultimate act. Paul is showing the Corinthians that despite their giving of many gifts and good deeds, they lack love in their giving and in their temperament and treatment of each other. Clarke writes that Paul is showing them “the spirit, temper, and disposition in which [good deeds] should be done, and without which all the rest must be ineffectual.”


In the Responsive Reading Paul reinforces his argument that no matter how many spiritual gifts one has, without love, they are nothing.

Next, we have all but two verses of one of the most well-known chapters in the Bible—I Corinthians 13. Here Paul expands on the meaning of love. Given that there are numerous Bible Commentaries and entire books written on this chapter; I strongly suggest you look deeply into this on your own. But for now, here’s a brief overview.

Love is:

  • Patient—willing to wait as long as it takes, bearing persecutions, infirmities, injustice, etc. as well as maintaining expectancy that all will work out in God’s way and in God’s time.
  • Kind—tender, compassionate, mild, gentle, submissive to God, creating trouble for no one.
  • Does not envy—is always happy at the good fortunes of others without jealousy, resentment, or bitterness.
  • Does not parade itself—has no desire for recognition or applause.
  • Is not puffed up—is full of humility without any sense of self-importance.
  • Does not behave rudely—maintains decorum, good manners, and civility
  • Does not seek its own—puts the welfare of others before itself.
  • Is not easily provoked—the original meaning is “not stirred to wrath,” does not allow circumstances to make one sour or bitter no matter how bad it gets.
  • Thinks no evil—never suspects evil intentions behind outwardly good acts, expects transparency, honesty, it neither invents nor devises evil.
  • Does not rejoice in iniquity—doesn’t tell lies, or gossip; neither seek vengeance, nor rejoice when evil befalls another.
  • Rejoices in the truth—welcomes and embraces truth and goodness whenever, and wherever found.
  • Bears all things—conceals the things which should be contained.
  • Believes all things—is trusting and magnifies the good.
  • Hopes all things—has an ongoing expectancy of good things and anticipates good outcomes through God’s power.
  • Endures all things—submits to trials, afflictions, and challenges with full confidence that right will be restored.

Paul sums it up where he began. Every human gift, no matter how impressive, is susceptible to eventual failure; but love is permanent, and never fails.


SECTION 1: IT BEGINS WITH GOD’S LOVE FOR US  

Let’s consider what it takes for us to live that agape, or Christian love. It begins with God’s love for us. After all, God is Cause and man is effect. But how can we recognize God’s love for us? In Zephaniah, the prophet describes God’s care in the highest human terms he knew. He speaks of God as present—in the midst of us—mighty in power, and always ready to save us. God rejoices over us, and loves us continually, singing over us with joy (cit. B1—Zeph. 3:17). That’s very much like the love a parent has for a child. It’s natural, and unconditional. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “the maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties” (SH 60:10). In Isaiah (cit. B2—Isa. 54:10, 11, 13), we go a step further. Friends, family, riches, position, status—virtually every human situation or relationship may potentially fail us. But nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

We may feel afflicted, tossed about by violence or confusion, but divine Love is always available to comfort us. Isaiah also notes that “all…children” shall be taught of the Lord” (Isa. 54:13). No one is excluded.

John echoes his Old Testament forefathers declaring boldly, “God is love…we love him because he first loved us” (cit. B3—I John 4:16 we, 19). Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) encapsulates the sentiment of prophet and apostle as well:

In our trials; in the darkness which is around us; in the perplexities which meet and embarrass us…let us learn to repeat this declaration of the favored disciple, “God is love.” What trials may we not bear, if we feel assured of that! What dark cloud that seems to hang over our way, and to involve all things in gloom, will not be bright, if from the depths of our souls we can always say, “God is love!”

The Discoverer of Christian Science says we can’t ask more, nor go farther, or higher than knowing that “God is Love” (cit. S1—SH 6:17-18). She saw Love expressed throughout creation (cit. S2—SH 516:9-19). She often used the sunlight as a metaphor for God’s surrounding love. One of my favorite statements of hers was recorded by William Rathvon: “Every leaf upon every tree declares perpetually that God is Love” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Amplified Edition, Vol. 2, p. 541). She also concurs with other theologians, recognizing that the unreliability of human help naturally compels us to search for spiritual comforts (cit. S3 SH265:23-26). Mary Baker Eddy conceived of God—infinite Love— as filling all space (cit. S4—520:3-5 The (to.)), but that isn’t because God exists in nature or material space. Quite the opposite. It’s because we exist in God. God comes first. Just as we love because He first loved us, the loving parent-child relationship in human experience exists as a reflection of God as Father-Mother, not the other way around (cit. S5—SH 516:21).


SECTION 2: GOD IS THE HEALER

This section begins with a reminder that God is available and reliable “24/7” (cit. B4—Ps. 46:1, 4-6). When we need protection, where do we find shelter? In God. When we are too weak to continue, where do we find strength? In God. When we need help do we have to go somewhere to find it? No. God is right with us. God provides everything we need. We live in Him. His strength is our strength. Whatever turmoil is going on around us, calm is always found in God.

The healing of Naaman’s leprosy (cit. B5—II Kings 5:1-4, 9-14) is often presented as emphasizing Naaman’s need to learn humility. In the context of this Lesson, I see something a bit different. True, due to his position, Naaman expected a warmer welcome. He saw himself as a great man that happened to be a leper and expected to be treated as special. Elisha, on the other hand, saw him as a leper who happened to be a great man. In this sense we see that Elisha didn’t treat Naaman any differently than he would anyone else. But another reason he didn’t come out and make a big deal about the healing was that Elisha was himself demonstrating humility. This showed Naaman that Elisha wasn’t the healer, God was.

Paul’s message calls for us too, to conduct our practice with the purest love, honest motives, and unselfed meekness (cit. B6—II Timothy 2:22 follow, 24 be, 25 (to 1st;)).

Science and Health teaches us that human actions have no power to move God to do anything other than what He’s already done. It’s not about how much we do. Healing is about humbly acknowledging that God is the only Doer (cit. S6—SH 2:8). It doesn’t matter what our status, or station. God treats us all the same. Everyone is invited to the healing waters (cit. S7—SH 13:2). The image of the river in Psalm 46 is defined in our textbook as symbolizing calm thought undisturbed by the chaotic obstacles of error as we yield to divine power (cit. S8—SH 593:14-17). But sometimes there are hazards in the river. As this section illustrates, one of the biggest obstructions for both the sufferer and the would-be healer is self-love. The author urges us to let Love dissolve this “adamant of error,—self-will, self-justification, and self-love” (cit. S9—SH 242:15). An “adamant” is a stone of impenetrable hardness. It should be noted that this instruction for healing isn’t only directed to the one who is suffering. It applies equally to the aspiring healer. Healing is not the result of human effort. It’s yielding human will to the “unlabored motion” of divine Love (cit. S10—SH 445:19-21). This is key. Remember, Elisha’s decision not to make a spectacle out of the healing was just as important as Naaman’s need for humility. Love and right motives strengthen and lead us. Our part is to be patient and get ourselves out of God’s way (cit. S11—SH 454:18).


SECTION 3: LOVE SUFFERS LONG

Recall from the Responsive Reading that Love does not behave rudely and is not provoked. We frequently hear these words in a variety of translations, yet we still need to be reminded to follow them. One of the hazards of thinking of oneself as “righteous” is the tendency to take offense when wronged. “How dare they?” we might think. “Do they know who they’re talking to?” Add this to the animal tendency to react without thinking, rather than to respond with thoughtful restraint, and we see how easily conflicts can boil over into hurtful outcomes.

In ancient times revenge was the norm. But the Christian way is different. A letter to the Christian Hebrews (cit. B7—Hebrews 10:24 let) reminds us to consider that everyone has something to work on, and in modern parlance the message is basic: “give each other a break!” Jesus knew it too. The old law said, “an eye for an eye.” But Jesus raised the bar with what has come to be known as the Golden Rule: “…whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (cit. B8—Matt. 7:12 whatsoever (to :)). Take note that this is proactive. Don’t wait for the other guy to do something bad to you. Take the first step yourself by treating him well beforehand. Remember, “Love is kind.” But Jesus recognized that sometimes we do run into conflict, and he had an unusual solution for that too: If you’re attacked…don’t retaliate. Respond with restraint. Not only that, but actually: love your enemies. What!? That statement is as radical today as it was two thousand years ago. What’s more, we should pray for them! Jesus reminds us that God is impartial by noting both evil and good people alike have the benefit of sunshine and rain without judgment (cit. B9—Matt. 5:39 whosoever, 44 Love, 45). If we want to be Godlike, we must show universal love and forbearance as well.

Science and Health is unequivocal in the stand that “human hate” is impermissible (cit. S12—SH 454:9-10 (to 2nd .)). No situation has the power to goad us into evil. Romans 8:38, 39 (cit. B10) assures us that nothing can separate us from God. While we deduce from this that God can’t be taken from us, the “doctrine of Christian Science” is that we can’t be taken from God, nor can any spiritual quality be reversed (cit. S13—SH 304:9, 18-19). It may appear that loving our enemies could end up being a waste of time, but our textbook says even if our efforts are rebuffed, it doesn’t matter. Our attempts and intention to love always bring healing (cit. S14—SH 57:22-24). Note that this isn’t saying we must like them or become best friends. Love, or charity, has nothing to do with like or dislike, because love isn’t based on merit. Recall that the King James Bible uses the word “charity,” and that one nuance of the Greek word means “costly, or of a high price.” Loving is not always easy. Love suffers long and endures whether reciprocated or not. In fact, it, cost us something. The law is simply…to love. In fact, we’re told the only way to uproot error is to wash it away with “floodtides of love” (cit. S15—SH 201:17-18).

Our Leader advises us to love friend and foe alike. Whether they agree or disagree with us, she counsels us to “judge righteous judgment”—to hold our tongues. Nothing anyone says can truly hurt us. We may feel bad about it, and that’s ok. But we never need fear because Love will rule in the end (cit. S16—SH 444:13-22). So, love requires work and intention. To paraphrase philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, “It’s easy to love your neighbor at a distance, but if you can’t love him right in front of you, you don’t love him at all.”


SECTION 4: LOVE HEALS

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ abundant supply of faith and love came through grace (cit. B11—I Tim. 1:14). The Master proved this again and again by forgiving his persecutors and healing even under distressing circumstances.

As most of us know, it’s difficult to think clearly in the middle of being angry, especially when attempting to heal. Yet Jesus was so attuned to love that not even a flash of anger—could deny Love’s healing power (cit. B12—Mark 3:1-5). Jesus had every right to be frustrated with those who were judging him for healing on the sabbath. Yet Jesus knew to separate the hatred of truth from the need for healing. He responded in a non-threatening way causing them to reflect upon their own hard hearts. The man with the withered hand must have been awed that Jesus was bold enough to contradict the authorities. Anger didn’t put them in their place, but love did. Jesus’ love for the sufferer won the day.

On the walls of nearly every Christian Science church we find these words: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (see cit. S18—SH 494:10-19, 30-32). We’re not talking here about mere human affection, kindness, or even compassion. We’re talking about God—divine Love itself. This healing love has existed throughout all time and continues to supply us with all our needs. As much as it seems so, this isn’t miraculous. It’s divinely natural to find our refuge and strength in God. Jesus demonstrated this power and taught that his followers should do so as well. Note here, that as before, fear and evil must be cast out of the practitioner as well as the patient. Just to be clear—in this context, I’m defining a practitioner as anyone who is honestly practicing healing. To be effective, loving our neighbor certainly needs to be practiced whether one is professionally engaged in healing or not.

The ideal is to heal as the Master did. We’re taught that it is possible if we reach the patient through Love (cit. S19—SH 365:15-19). That’s the ideal. It’s our aim. The only way to achieve that aim is to embody the same love and faith through grace, as Jesus did. He practiced consistently in every situation. If we desire the same healing results, so must we.


SECTION 5: GOD’S FAMILY

We hear it in every Christian Science Sunday service, but how often do we actually take the time to consider what it means to be a child of God? Adam Clarke notes that John himself doesn’t really give us the answer. He simply asks us to “behold” it (cit. B13—I John 3:1 (to :)). It’s common to feel alone, forgotten, left out, and even ignored. But as a follower of Christ, we join a family that has no favorites. Every individual is cherished by divine Love. John’s first epistle continues to remind us that as a member of God’s family it is incumbent upon us to love each other too (cit. B14—I John 4:7). After all, we are Love’s offspring. Mary Baker Eddy once told a student “This is what the world must see before we can convince the world of the truths of Christian Science” (Mary Baker Eddy Christian Healer, p. 484).

 

When informed that his mother and family came to visit him, Jesus said “whosoever shall do the will of God … is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (cit. B16—Mark 3:31-35). As Clarke defines it: “Those are the best acknowledged relatives of Christ who are united to him by spiritual ties, and who are become one with him by the indwelling of his Spirit.” How might our relationships change if we all adopted this view?

Science and Health tells us the key to loving each other in this way, is acknowledging “one Father, even God” (cit. S20—SH 469:30-5). This reinforces the fact that we love because He first loved us. In today’s fractured world it may seem impossible for people and governments with such divergent views to ever live in love for one another. But with God it’s possible. The author of Science and Health longed for and expected that day to come (cit. S21—SH 55:16-21). Conventional wisdom supposes the only way to get everyone on the same side is to crush the opposition. But love endureth all things, hopeth all things, and believeth all things. It never gives up. There are several games at camp in which the object of the game is to get everybody on one side. Inevitably this turns into a raucous competition to “beat” the other team by consuming them. But, in games and life, love handles things differently. The quickest way to get everyone on one side is to win them over with love. This deep, spiritual, unselfed love as demonstrated by Jesus is the cement that will unite us (cit. S22—SH 571:19).


SECTION 6: LOVE THINKS NO EVIL; DOES NOT REJOICE IN INIQUITY

Mary Baker Eddy refers to the “cement of a higher humanity.” In the same vein, theologian John Gill (1697-1771), calls love, “the cement of saints, and the bond of perfectness, without which all the gifts that men have, the profession they make, and works they do are of no avail, and they themselves nothing.” He’s discussing Paul’s words, “Let love be without dissimulation” (cit. B17—Rom. 12:19). But what is dissimulation? It’s assuming a false appearance—pretending to be something you’re not.

Jesus called out Simon the Pharisee on this point (cit. B18:—Luke 7:37-40, 44-47 Simon (to :)). We don’t really know why Simon invited Jesus to dine with him. But we do know that though outwardly pious, secretly he was very critical of the woman who came in to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. Criticism and judgment have long been a challenge for religious people of all faiths. Jesus didn’t allow it. He pointed out to Simon that, as his host, he neglected to offer Jesus even routine courtesies, and he had no business judging the woman who overflowed with sincere love and gratitude. Criticism and judgment usually betray an arrogance, rudeness, selfishness, pettiness, suspicion, and stereotyping—all of which are infringements of love as described by Paul in I Corinthians 13.

When corresponding with fledgling churches of his time, Paul regularly stressed the need for love. He reminded the Romans to owe nothing but to love each other; and more than that, doing so fulfilled the law (cit. B19—Rom. 13:8 (to :), 10 love is). Gill reminds us that “the whole law” is love for God and man; and we can’t love God if we don’t love man—and not just a particular person, —but every man in the largest sense of the word.

Mary Baker Eddy tells us, “Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching” (cit. S23—SH 454:17-18). She asks us to consider where we fall in the spectrum of love. Are we more like Simon? Insincere—pretending—to love? Or like the woman? Humble, and genuinely allowing the Christ to transform our lives?

The final five of the seven citations from Science and Health in this section are clear instructions that speak for themselves. To summarize, we can’t “act” like healers, or pretend to be loving. The only way to heal is to be loving. Pretending is lying to yourself and to others. When we’re engaging with people, especially in healing, we must be present with them—listening, honoring, and loving them tenderly. Rising above mortal belief ourselves will enable us to listen to others’ troubles without getting pulled in to them. When the Christ truly touches our hearts, we make ourselves available to its healing power.


SECTION 7: CHERISH THE GREATEST

To succeed in anything, we need to practice. Faith helps us define our aim. Hope inspires the expectation we can achieve it. But without love—the fuel that keeps us going in the face of all obstacles, when all else fails—we won’t get very far (cit. B20—I Cor. 13:13). Love not only carries us through and out of impossible conditions; it brings healing. It’s not our effort that heals, it’s yielding to Love and being immersed in that healing zone. When our practice seeks truth with the fervency of the woman washing Jesus’ feet—allowing no obstacle to keep us from him—we’ll begin to feel the healing power in our lives (cit. B21—I Peter 4:8 above (to :)).

Love does the work. We all have equal access to it (cit. S30—SH 518:19-21). Our job is to pay attention to all the elements we’ve been talking about in this Lesson. Are we fulfilling what love is? Are we avoiding what love is not? Again, we can’t pretend we have it, if we don’t. But no worries. No judgment. We begin where we are, honestly acknowledging our need for love, making ourselves available, and accepting the call to open our hearts to Love’s healing power (cit. S31— SH 486:9-13 Ask).

We can’t do anything on our own. Fortunately, “Divine Love is infinite” (cit. S32—SH 342:12). Remember, “Love never fails.” So, let’s be available to it!


GEMs of BIBLE-BASED application ideas (from COBBEY CRISLER & others) will now be POSTED throughout the week and EMAILED later in the week as a summary string.  You can always check  for current GEMs at CedarS INSPIRATION website, whether or not you’ve  SUBSCRIBED here for this free offering.


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contributions related to this Bible Lesson.


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