By J.R. Miller
Our love should be sincere, "without hypocrisy," as Paul says. A hypocrite is an actor. He pretends to be what he is not. We are not to live in this way--merely pretending to love people, speaking to them kindly words--while bitterness is in our heart. Our life must be as good as our speech, our heart as good as our profession.
If our love is to be without hypocrisy, we must "Hate what is evil; and cling to what is good." God hates wickedness, hates everything that is sinful; if we would be like God--we must hate sin. It is not enough to love what is right and to cling to it. This is very important--but we must also abhor that which is evil. This does not mean that we are to hate wicked people, for we are taught to love all men. We are not to hate the people--but the wickedness, being ready meanwhile to show our love in kindness and helpfulness even to the worst and most degraded. God hates sin--but loves the sinner and yearns for his salvation, doing everything to bring him back to right ways. In these days of tolerance, we need to watch lest sometimes we be tolerant of things we ought to hate!
But we must not let our hatred of evil interfere with out love for others. Paul urges that we, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." Perhaps ofttimes we are too cold in our affection, at least in our showing of affection. There is something wonderfully beautiful in the way Jesus loved His disciples and friends. He loved them and he let them know that He loved them. He spoke to them of His tender interest in their life, and showed His interest, too, in many sweet and gentle ways. He commanded His friends to love one another as He had loved them. Not only should we love--but we should be tenderly affectioned.
Especially in homes is there ofttimes a lack in the showing of affection. The family love each other--but their words and acts do not show it. We are too miserly with our loving words. We are to do more. We are to show our love by preferring one another. This is not easy. We like to claim the first place for ourselves. We do not like to sink ourselves out of sight when we have been doing something good and beautiful, quietly allowing some other one to get the credit and carry off the honor.
It is in associated Christian work that this lesson has its special application. As long as we are clamoring for honor and recognition, we have not learned this part of Christian duty. If we only knew it, there is a wonderful comfort in caring only for the work, and not caring to have the praise of men for it.
Another thing not easy we are asked to do: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Indeed, none of these life lessons are easy. Possibly we may learn part of the lesson--not to be resentful, not to try to punish others for the hurt they do us. We say we will drop the matter and not think of it any more. But this is not all of the lesson. Not only are we not to curse--but we are to bless those who persecute us. We are not to return injury for injury, nor are we to return nothing; we are to pay the debt in full--but we must pay it with love instead of hate; instead of persecuting those who persecute us, we are to bless them.
Then, we are to "rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep." The latter part of this counsel we hear about very often. It is quite natural and not very hard to weep with those who weep. We go to the house of mourning, and we feel very sorry for our friends in their trouble. But this is not all the lesson. Sometimes we are disposed to envy those who are prosperous or who have great blessing or joys; the teaching here is that we are to rejoice with these; we are to be glad, because they are glad and happy.
Those who have the Spirit of Christ must "Live in harmony with one another." If two people are to live together happily, they must make up their minds that they both cannot have their own way all the time. One way to get along, is for one to do always just what he wants, while the other yields in everything, having no mind of his own, claiming no rights. This can scarcely be called the Christian way. It makes one a tyrant--and the other a slave. The way for people to live together, is for both to have the same mind, each to think of the other's comfort. Being of the same mind implies that there is no quarreling, no dissension. Both move together in unselfish love, seeking lowly things.
"Do not be proud--but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Self-conceit is a miserable thing. Ruskin says, "Conceit may puff a man up--but never prop him up." Nobody admires self-conceit in another. Everyone thinks it is a most detestable disposition. We must think of ourselves, as we appear to others. We ought to know very well, that self-conceit makes us very unlovely in the eyes of others. Humility is the grace which adorns. God loves it and men love it.
The truly humble Christian will "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." We represent God in this world. We have the interests of God's cause in our keeping. This makes it a very serious thing to profess to be a Christian, for people have a right to look to us--to see what God is like. Besides, God has a right then to look to us--for the true manifesting of His own character and will. It is very important, therefore, that in every disposition we show, in all our conduct, in all our business transactions, in all our social relations, in all our acts and words of influence, we shall show the things that are godlike and beautiful. We must be honorable as well as honest.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." In God's mind, peace is a part of beautiful living. It is not always possible to live in peace with people. There are some people who would quarrel with an angel. They are so selfish, so ill-tempered, so domineering, so unreasonable, that they can be at peace with no one. It may not be possible, therefore, even for the best Christian to move through the world, without having somebody hate him or strive with him. But the lesson is, that it must never be our fault if there is quarreling. So far as we are concerned, we must be at peace with all people. Abraham preserved peace with Lot by letting Lot have his own way. This is a good rule.