The Proof of Love
From the July 1903 issue of The Christian Science Journal by Willis F. Gross
The proof of love is obedience, and he who loves will obey. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” was the simple yet supreme test to which Jesus would put his disciples. Faithful obedience to all his commandments would be most convincing proof of their love and loyalty to the one who had done so much for them and for the world, who had made such great sacrifices for sinful and suffering humanity, whose pure and unselfish life had made plain the way of salvation. His teachings pointed the way to the spiritual consciousness of God and man. This was his true being, and if they loved him, they would strive to live the pure and unselfish life that he lived, and to bless the world as he had blessed it. Their earnestness would be in proportion to their love. If they loved little they would strive little, but if they loved much they would strive much.
The Master declared that not only his disciples, but all the world, in all ages, was to be judged by the same standard. “He that hath my commandments, and keepth them, he it is that loveth me,” was the emphatic declaration of him who would accept nothing less than obedience as the proof of love. Mere profession on the part of his followers was not sufficient. The question was not, Does he make a good profession? but, Does he obey? Do his deeds testify to the truth of his words? If such proof is lacking, mere profession is valueless. Professing to be what one is not, amounts to nothing, and what is worse, it makes one a hypocrite. The character of the tree is known by the quality of its fruit, and the tree that bears no fruit is hewn down. Luxuriant foliage, and even sweet scented blossoms, count for naught if the time of harvest bring forth no fruit.
In all vocations of life, the manner in which a man performs his work clearly shows whether he loves it or is influenced by some other motive in doing it. If he is careless and indifferent, and inclined to slight his work wherever he thinks it will escape detection, it is a sure sign that he is impelled by some other motive than love for that which he has undertaken. On the other hand, if he strives to do his best, never listening to the suggestion that this or that defect would not be observed, it is because he finds pleasure and satisfaction in the thought that his task is well done.
The man who does not love his work is unwilling to do even as well as he knows, and he is content to leave it half done if permitted to do so. Such a man is never really successful. He may accomplish results in a way, but there is nothing to urge him on to the completion of his task. The pathway of his life may be strewn with good beginnings and fair promises, but it cannot be said that he has succeeded, that he has accomplished all that could have been reasonably expected.
The truly successful man is he who loves his work, and gives proof of his love and sincerity by meeting all the exacting requirements of his calling. Wherein he sees his work deficient he labors faithfully until he has remedied the defect. The possibility that an imperfection would never be noticed does not influence him in the least. His own standard of perfection must be lived up to. He is impelled to do the best he can, and he is not content to cease from his labors until he can look upon what he has accomplished and honestly and conscientiously say to himself, “Well done.” The material recompense he expects to receive when his task is finished, is not the goal. He looks further and strives for the attainment of an ideal.
The love, the earnestness, the watchfulness, and the unceasing labor that insures success in worldly affairs makes the successful Christian. Jesus said, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” The children of this world love to succeed. They are prompted by different motives,—motives that are often exceedingly selfish, but they have a definite end in view and they strive to attain it. No sacrifice is too great and no labor too arduous for the man who is thoroughly in earnest and determined to succeed. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles only intensify his desire and increase his determination.
According to mortal man’s estimate of a Christian life it is largely a negative condition. Goodness is looked upon as little more than abstaining from the indulgence of evil. The best man is he who does the least evil. Man is supposed to gain heaven, not because of the great good he has done, but because he does not merit punishment for doing evil. This belief tends to make man a professing Christian for the mere purpose of escaping eternal punishment. If it were possible to escape the penalty for wrong-doing, such a man would not even profess to be a Christian, for he would have no motive for doing so.
Christian Science teaches that true Christianity is more than refraining from evil; it is activity in good. Mortal man may be a sinner, not because he does evil but because he does not do good. This fact is clearly illustrated by the parable of the talents. The servant with the one talent was punished because he had not done good, because he had not used the talent that was given him. The failure to do good was accounted evil, and for this he deserved to be punished and was punished. It was no excuse that he did not have as many talents as the other servants. Neither did it suffice that he kept his talent safely and returned it to his lord. He had not used his talent; he had not been an active servant, and for that reason that which he had was taken from him. This parable teaches that there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission, and that mortal man pays the penalty for the one as well as for the other.
The Scriptures are full of such texts as these: “Eschew evil, and do good.” “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” “He that doeth good is of God.” “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” These declarations show very clearly that the truly Christian life, which merits the kingdom of heaven and finds it within, is not a life of inactivity, but one that is exceedingly active in doing good.
It is recorded that on one occasion a young man came to Jesus asking what he should do to inherit eternal life. When told to keep the commandments he proudly replied that he had observed them all from his youth. It is said that Jesus “beholding him loved him.” The Master loved the goodness and purity that had been gained by faithfully keeping the precepts of the law of Moses, but this was not enough; there was something lacking, and he said to the young man, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” This young man had shown his love for God by refraining from evil; now he was called upon to prove his love by doing good. Nothing but the righteousness of right doing could make him perfect, could make him worthy of eternal life.
Jesus declared that he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fill full and to overflowing the measure of goodness they had bequeathed to mankind. He came to give a more spiritual sense of righteousness and a purer motive for doing good. Paul said, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
The law of Moses is a rebuke to sin, and mortal man’s first step toward goodness is a turning away from the evil he indulges; but this turning away is not positive good, it does not constitute the kingdom of heaven,—the reign of eternal harmony in human consciousness. Prophecy points to the spiritual fact of being and reveals the possibility of its attainment. Christ brings the conscious possession of good, expressing the activity of divine Mind, and in this the work of the law and the prophets is fulfilled. Then man is good, not because he does not do evil but because he reflects God.
The truly Christian man does not do right because he fears punishment, but because he loves good and hates evil. If the moral law were unexpressed it would not in the least lower the high standard of his life. He would not cease from his well doing. He would continue to do good, and doing good he would not do evil. “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.” The “thou shalt not” of the Mosaic decalogue has no terror for the man who does right simply because it is right. He is inspired by a higher motive than the fear of punishment or hope of a future reward. He loves good and he proves his love by doing good. The demands of right living are a restraint upon him who believes he finds pleasure in evil, but they confer the greatest freedom upon him who loves good above all else. The more he loves the more he does, and the greater his pleasure in doing. Christianity increases his joys an hundred-fold.
The Sermon on the Mount is a command to do. The promise of reward is not to him who does not do evil but to him who does good. Love for God and man is the text of this sermon. This love is active. It gives itself for others and is more blessed in giving than in receiving. The human sense of love withholds itself from the undeserving, but the love that is of God does not wait until it receives before it gives. It gives even though it receives nothing in return. Jesus said, “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.” The loving and doing must extend even to those who hate and do evil. It is not enough that one does not hate and does not do evil; he must love and do good.
The Christian’s love for God is expressed in his love for man. “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” He who loves his neighbor will do him good and not evil. He will help and not hinder him. He will make it easier for him to do right. He will not knowingly allow himself to become the occasion of another’s stumbling. He will not judge and criticise, but will love and commend. He will speak an encouraging word and extend a helping hand. His goodness will be known by what he does. His deeds rather than his words will testify to his love for God and man.
Perhaps the reason why mortals are not more successful in doing good is because there is not that hearty response to the demands of Christianity that is necessary to make the truly successful Christian. When the call comes to do, there is too often a looking about for a good and sufficient reason for not doing. There is a desire to do and a willingness to do sometime, but the future seems to offer a better opportunity than the present.
When there is in the human heart a genuine love for Christianity, the present is the accepted time for doing good. Now is always the time for that which man truly loves. The inclination to neglect and postpone indicates a lack of love. That which quickens thought and increases man’s love for good, makes him more successful in doing good. His success increases as his love increases. Success is the result of obedience and obedience is the fruit of love.
It is a question whether he who does not love can truly obey. It is possible that he might observe the letter of the law, because of the fear of punishment, but if he does not love good he will not be very active in doing good. As a preacher of the gospel of doing he would hardly be accounted successful.
The law of infinite progression, not only requires that man refrain from doing evil, but that he do all the good he can. The turning away from evil is but the first step toward the kingdom of harmony. It is doing good that brings peace, and joy, and satisfaction. It is doing good that makes man free from the claims of sin and worthy of the kingdom of heaven.
What proof do we as Christian Scientists give of our love for our Leader, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science? Are we content with professions of love and loyalty, or are we doing that which will bring the greatest joy to her heart? Are we living Christian Science? Do we love one another? Are we healing the sick, reforming the sinner, and comforting the sorrowing? Do we deny self, take up the cross, and follow the Christ idea? Do we heed her wise counsels and willingly obey when she points the way to harmony and success? If we are doing these things, we are loyal Christian Scientists, and actions more than words attest our love for her who has revealed the Science of Christianity which is saving the world from sickness and sin.