So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. — John 13:34
Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most gifted spiritual writers of the 12th century. He was a monk and the head of the Catholic monastery at Clairvaux in France. His extraordinary personal magnetism attracted many who were seeking a deeper Christian life. This is what he wrote on why we love God and others:
"God is entitled to our love. Why? Because He gave Himself for us despite the fact that we are so undeserving. What better could He have given? If we ask why God is entitled to our love, we should answer, 'Because He first loved us.' God is clearly deserving of our love, especially if we consider who He is that loves us, who we are that He loves, and how much He loves us." *
Do you have difficulty loving God and others? Perhaps this illustration will help and provide a solution.
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan. "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him."
With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!"
And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called.
"Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him."
Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as by often-repeated deeds. **
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
*Bernard of Clairvaux, "On the Love of God."
**J. Allan Petersen, SermonIllustrations.com, Love