Love is the greatest thing in earth or heaven. Out of it flows most of the things that are worth while in life. Love of relatives, love of friends, and love of the brethren (1 John 3: 14) make life worth living. There is no heart so empty as the heart that is without love. There is no life so joyful as the love-filled life. Love puts a song in the heart, a sparkle in the eye, a smile on the lips, and makes the whole being glad. And God's love is greater than all else. He who has God's love has a continual feast. There may be sorrow and care and suffering in the life; but if there is love, it lightens all these.
Sometimes there is not the love for the relatives that there ought to be. Sometimes there is not the love for the brethren that should characterize us. When we realize this and feel our lack, the question naturally arises, |How can my love for them be increased?| Plants can not grow without fertility; that is, the soil must contain the elements necessary to growth. If these are absent, they must be supplied, or there can be no harvest. This is equally true of love; it must be fertilized if it is to grow. Do you realize that you are lacking in love for some one? Do you manifest as much affection toward your conjugal companion as you did in days gone by?
There are very many things that may choke out love in the home. One of these is the lack of kindness. If you have grown less kind in your feelings, in your actions, and in your words, love can not thrive. Kindness is one of the best fertilizers for love. Do you show the same consideration for the feelings and tastes of your companion as you used to show? There are so many people who have two sets of tones in which to speak, and two sets of manners in which they act. They have their company manners and their family manners. When they have company, the voice is soft and pleasant, the manners are agreeable and kindly. They treat their friends with the greatest consideration; but as soon as their friends are gone, the pleasant voice changes into crossness or harshness and faultfinding, and the pleasantness of manner disappears. In how many homes is this true! The greater consideration, the greater kindness, is due the home folks. Otherwise, love can not flourish. If you wish to have love for your home folks, you must show them the consideration that is due them.
Some professors of religion are like the catbird. When it is away from its nest, it is one of the sweetest of the northern warblers, and so it is often called the northern mocking-bird; but when it is close to its nest, you will hear only a harsh, discordant note. It has no sweetness in its voice while at its nest. Some people reserve all their kindness, tenderness, and sweetness for those outside the family circle. Is it any wonder that love dies in such a home? If you realize you do not love some one enough, begin to consider his desires. Begin to show a special interest in him. Watch for opportunities to be kind to him. Try especially to be agreeable, and you will soon find that this reacts upon yourself; in a short time you will find your love increasing; and the more you follow this course, the more your love will increase.
I have been asked if we should love all saints the same. Some have even taught that if we were right in our souls we would love one of God's children as much as another. This, however, is not possible. Even Jesus loved some of his disciples more than others. There were three -- James, Peter, and John -- who were closer to him than the others; and of these, John was most beloved. He calls himself |that disciple whom Jesus loved.| If love for the brethren depended solely on spiritual things, then, possibly we might love all the same; but it depends to a great extent on other things as well. Jesus loved John much because of John's loving nature. We love those most who seem to us most lovable. We are drawn most to those whose dispositions and characters and interests appeal most strongly to us. There are those who are saved, who, because of their faults or unlovely dispositions, repel us rather than attract us. We will not find ourselves drawn into the same close relations with them as with the others. There is danger of a twofold nature. On the one hand, we are liable to love some so much that we become partial towards them to such an extent that others will feel that we do not value them as we should. On the other hand, there is danger of looking at the unlovely qualities in another until we lose sight of the good that is in him, and grow prejudiced against him until it becomes hard to feel the proper love for him.
If we realize we do not love some of the brethren as we should, let us cease looking at the unlovely things, and look for the good things, the noble qualities. Seek out these things, keep them before the mind, overlook the faults and failings and unlovely traits. Begin to show special kindness, make it a point to speak to these brethren kindly; show an interest in them. Watch for a chance to do something helpful; go out of your way to do them favors. Possibly your own coldness has much to do with their attitude and feelings. Be as genial and sunshiny toward them as you are toward your closest friends. Some reserved natures need sunshine to open them up, just as do some flowers. Have you not seen flowers open up in the sunshine and throw their fragrance upon the breezes, and then, as a heavy cloud suddenly overspread the sky and the dark shadows fell, quickly close up? It is just that way with some natures. If we radiate sunshine, they unfold their beauties to us; but if we are cold and distant, we are permitted to see only the rough exterior. Love begets love. If we so act that love in us may grow and develop, we shall be loved in return.
Love can not survive carelessness, indifference, and neglect. These things are poison to the tender plant. We can easily kill the love in our hearts, or we can cultivate and increase it till its blossoms and fragrance are the delight of our lives. If your love is not what it ought to be, try fertilizing it with kindness, gentleness, and self-sacrifice, and take away the weeds of selfishness, carelessness, and indifference. You will find that love will grow and increase, and become sweeter and more tender with the passing days.