By Ramona Siddoway
I’ll freely admit it. I really like people who like me. Maybe it’s because they seem to get my jokes, my dry sense of humor, or instinctively understand what makes me tick. I like it when people get me and make me feel that it is possible I just may be a loveable creature after all. It’s a nice feeling. But I realized something – thankfully – a long time ago. If I stick only with people I’m completely comfortable with I lose out on a lot of great experiences, interactions, and friendships along the way. This would mean losing out on a lot of life. And boy life can be pretty exciting and cool.
I think it is safe to say each one of us knows at least one person we think of as a loving person. The unique thing about these kinds of people is that they don’t limit themselves. They have the amazing ability to make everyone whom they come into contact with to feel loved.
So what about the love of God? We often talk about His unconditional and far reaching love. Is “love of God” something we feel from Him or for Him?
Aman filled with the love of God,” wrote Joseph Smith, “is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” We are all children of God. We may refer to Him with different titles but He is the Father of us all. As our Father He has endowed each one of us with a special gift that, when properly nourished and used, will influence us toward heavenly things. This gift is love. True, unconditional love has the power – and authority – to overcome hatred, fear, and even peer pressure. This is what I think the “love of God” is. Whether it is naturally in us (which I think it can be) or whether it comes directly from God and we “borrow” it (which I think we have to on occasion) the origin is essentially the same.
There is a scripture in the New Testament that reads:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37–40.)
So perhaps love of God is what we feel from Him for our neighbors.
Today, as in this book of scripture, is a continuing debate about who or what constitutes as a neighbor. Friends or enemies? People on the same street or in the entire local community? Where does religion come into play? What about those who profess to not knowing any God? Do we have to consider him as our neighbor as well? It’s easy to love those that are loveable, or who are like us, or even those who like us! It’s much more pleasant to interact with those who smile at us rather than to face the unknown of a grimace or solemn face.
David B. Haight from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the following, “God does not love us because we are lovable, have a pleasing personality or a good sense of humor, or at rare times show exceptional kindness. In spite of who we are and what we have done, God wants to pour out His love on us, for the unlovable are also precious unto Him.”
Haven’t we all at one point in our lives been unlovable? Unconditional love bars no one, has no boundaries, and encourages us to cultivate fellowship with every person on the earth. We don’t need to embrace lifestyles, just life. Embrace the person. “If a single man achieves the highest kind of love,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi, “it will be sufficient to neutralize the hate of millions.”
When we go beyond the close-knit circle of street neighbors and church friends we find that we can be richly blessed by knowing all of our neighbors. The capacity to love is more than doubled and we find that our hearts have been prepared beforehand, by God, to receive and give more than ever before anticipated. I actually believe it is possible to achieve that highest kind of love, which is the love of God.
My goal for the month of February (and beyond) is to petition God for love that both Joseph Smith and Mahatma Gandhi speak of, the kind of love that can see beyond differences, barriers, race, and past the lack of love I may see in others toward me. Who knows, perhaps they can borrow some of His love in return for me?
Ramona Siddoway is a freelance writer and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) where she volunteers in the Public Affairs department. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Interfaith Houston.