We human beings were made for each other, and what any of us is doing at any time cannot be a matter of indifference to the rest of us. On the human plane all men are brothers. The Son of Man never denied this sweet tie with humankind. Over a stubborn and sinful Jerusalem He frankly shed tears and, in the hour of death, prayed for men who were so blind as to nail their God on a tree. And Paul, who burned always to be like his Lord, wept over the unbelieving Israel with an anguish that goaded him to an utterance so daring as to cause the ages to wonder: "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Peace of heart that is won by refusing to bear the common yoke of human sympathy is a peace unworthy of a Christian. To seek tranquility by stopping our ears to the cries of human pain is to make ourselves not Christians but a kind of degenerate stoic having no relation either to stoicism or Christianity. We Christians should never try to escape from the burdens and woes of life among men. The hermit and the anchorite sound good in poetry, but stripped of their artificial romance, they are not good examples of what the followers of Christ should be. True peace comes not by a retreat from the world but by the overpowering presence of Christ in the heart. "Christ in you" is the answer to our cry for peace. The Salvation Army lassie distributing gospel literature in a saloon is a better example of the separated life than a prim and cold-faced saint who has long ago fled the world to take refuge in the barren caverns of her soul.
Whether or not the Christian should separate himself from the world is not open to debate; the question was settled by the sacred Scriptures, an authority from which there can be no appeal. The New Testament is very plain: ?They are not of the world,? said our Lord, ?even as I am not of the world.? James wrote, ?Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.? John said, ?Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.? Such teaching as this would appear to be plain enough, and there should be no doubt about what is intended. But we must never underestimate the ability of the human mind to get lost on a paved highway in broad daylight. Some well-intentioned souls have managed to get themselves confused about their relation to the world and have sought to escape it by hiding from it. They read into the biblical command to separate from the world the idea of complete withdrawal from all human activities and seek peace of heart by cutting themselves off, as far as possible, from the great stream of human life and thought. And that is not good.
While the all-important distinction between the human and the spiritual love of Jesus is one that must be discerned, and one which can scarcely be explained, we yet venture to point out some marks which may distinguish the two. Reverence, for one thing, will always be present in the heart of the one who loves Christ in the Spirit. The Spirit gives a holy solemnity to every thought of Jesus, so that it is psychologically impossible to think of the true Christ with humor or levity. Neither can there be any unbecoming familiarity. The Person of Christ precludes all such. Then, self-abasement is always found in the heart that loves Jesus with true spiritual love. When Paul saw Jesus, he fell on his face. John fell down as dead, and every soul that ever saw and felt the terror and wonder of His glorious Presence, has known some such experience of self-abasement. It is important that we know whether our relation to Jesus is divine or human. It will pay us to find out now.
The human heart can love the human Jesus as it can love the human Lincoln, but the spiritual love of Jesus is something altogether different from and infinitely superior to the purest love the human heart can know. Indeed, it is not possible to love Jesus rightly except by the Holy Spirit. Only the third Person of the Trinity can love the second Person in a manner pleasing to the Father. The spiritual love of Jesus is nothing else but the Spirit in us loving Christ the Eternal Son. Christ, after the flesh, receives a great deal of fawning attention from the liberal and the modernist, but love that is not the outflow of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not true spiritual love and cannot be acceptable to God. We do Christ no honor when we do no more than to give Him the best of our human love. Even though we love Him better than we love any other man, still it is not enough if He merely wins first place in competition with Socrates or Walt Whitman. He is not rightly loved until He is loved as very God of very God, and the Spirit within us does the loving. There is much in present-day gospel circles that illustrates the distinction we are pointing out. A great many loud protestations of love for Christ leave the discerning heart with the impression that they are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Innumerable sweet love ballads are sung to Jesus by persons who have never known the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit or felt the shock that comes with a true sight of the sinful pollution of nature.
The whole of true religion can be summed up in the spiritual love of Jesus. To love God and to love our neighbor was said by our Lord to be the fulfilling of the law and the prophets. All Christians believe that God reveals Himself as Christ; so the love of Jesus is in truth the love of God. Love as experienced by human beings may be on either of two levels, the human or the divine. These are not the same. They differ not only in intensity and elevation but in kind. Human love is undoubtedly the best thing left to the human race. Though it is often perverted and sometimes degraded, it is still Adam's best product, and without it, life on earth would be unendurable. Let us imagine what the world would be like if every trace of human love were suddenly removed. The heart recoils from the contemplation of such a horror. Without love, earth would not differ from hell except for the difference of location. Let us treasure what is left of love among the sons of men. It is not perfect, but it makes life bearable and even sweet here below. But human love is not divine love and should never be confused with it. Among the sentimental religionists, the two are accepted as being the very same and no distinctions are made. This is a great moral blunder and one that leads to spiritual frustration and disappointment. If we are to think clearly and pray rightly, we must recognize the difference between love that is merely human and that other love which cometh down from above. Charles Wesley knew the difference and made it clear in his famous lines: Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heaven, to earth come down. Here all grades and degrees of human love are acknowledged, and the true love which comes down from heaven is placed above them as far as the heaven is above the earth. This is not only good poetry, it is good theology as well.