"Love loves." With this succinct statement Howard Thurman describes the nature and function of love. In 1960, more than three decades before I read Thurman's statement on love I published a book containing twenty sermons I had preacehd with the title, "Love Is What Love Does." The lead sermon in the book had the same title. It was Thurman's two-word statement describing love more definitively than anything I had heard before or have heard since that gave me an ah understanding of love.
Although, before becoming acquainted with this premier theologian's statement on love I had heard about him, but I had not read any of his writings. That would change after I visited the Agape International Spiritual Center (also known as Agape Church), Michael Bernard Beckwith Founder and Spiritual Director, located in Culver City near Los Angeles. It was two days after Christmas in 1992 when I visited Agape Church.
For a number of years I had attended the Fields Family Reunion that met on Christmas Day in my native state of Alabama. Because I would be conducting a two-day year's end seminar I decided to remain in Los Angeles that Christmas. With all Sunday activities having been canceled at the Mutuality Center for Creative Living (Mutuality Temple on Sundays), including the weekly Sunday afternoon People United Freedom Fourm (PUFF) where I served as the spiritual guide and moderator, respectively, it occurred to me the day after Christmas that the next day, Sunday, would be a good time to visit the Agape Church which since it was founded in 1986 had attracted wide attention as being one of the fastest-growing and most integrated churches in California. Agape Church's spiritual director Beckwith is an African American.
Prior to the sermon delivered that Sunday by the spiritual director Beckwith, a laymen read a meditation titled, "The Idol of Togetherness" taken from the book, "The Inward Journey" by Howard Thurman. I was impacted deeply by that reading and the sermon. At the close of the worship service I purchased a copy of "The Inward Journey" from the Church's book store. I cannot remember another book that I have read more often, except the Bible that has impacted me more than this 155-page book. The book contains meditations that were written originally for the weekly "Bulletin" of Marsh Chapel, Boston University as a part of the ministry where Thurman, the dean of Marsh Chapel delivered messages during the Sunday morning religious services.
Earlier that year the Rodney King Riot occurred in Los Angeles. Rodney King, an African American, had been severely beaten by Los Angeles policemen who were acquitted by an all-white Semi-Valley (a lily white suburb of Los Angeles) jury. The video of the brutal beating of Rodney King by policemen was shown throughout the world. It substantiated what African Americans had complained about for years without being heard, police brutality. Following the acquittal of four policemen the City of Los Angeles literally went up in flames. For serveral days the city was aflame. The appliance building next door, about thirty feet from the Mutuality Center for Creative Living which was a human development center founded and directed by me, was destroyed by fire as was the Church of the Living God two blocks down the street from the Mutuality Center, when the furniture store next to it was looted and set on fire. Fearful of their lives policemen and firemen refused to come into certian areas of the city. Some of the looters would shoot into the buildings before they looted it.
With some other ministers of Los Angeles we joined Tom Bradley, Mayor of Los Angeles, in making a plea for nonviolence and calmness, in the hope that we would lessen the destruction that was rampant. Our plea fell of deaf ears. However, my on-site plea probably prevented the destruction of the Mutuality Center for Creative Living. My repeated announcement as I stood among the angry protesters was "This business is black-owned!" The appliance store next door looted and destroyed by fire was white-owned.
During the Rodney King Riot there were 53 deaths, 2,383 persons injured and damage in the amount of $785 million. In addition to policemen and sheriffs, National Guardsmen and Federal troops were deployed. (Next year marks the Twentieth Anniversary of the Rodney King Riot. Two weeks after that riot I published an article titled "The Rodney King Riot" and for the Fifteenth Anniversary I repubished this article and posted it on the internet where it has been widely read by more people than any other article I have posted on the internet. To read it, please visit: www.authorsden.com.)
All I have said relates to the power of love and the cost or the lack of love. "Love loves." I had preached the sermon "Love Is What Love Does," at the Bell Street Baptist Church in Montgomery where I served as pastor for nearly a decade soon after that congregation held its first service in the new sanctuary that had been built some sixteen months, following the bombing of Bell Street Baptist Church, three other churches and two parsonages during the wee hours of January 10,1957. Rabid racists, in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the desegregation of buses in Montgomery, after the 382-day bus boycott ended and the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that segregation on Montgomery buses is unconstitutional.
About two years later I preached this sermon on love at the First Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada. My being in Canada at the time resulted from officials of the Alabama Commission on Alcohol and Narcotics rejecting the application I had submitted to attend the Yale Summer School on Alcohol Studies at Yale University. For a number of years the Alabama Commission on Alcoholism and Narcotics had selected two or more persons to attend the Yale Summer School. No African American had ever applied, let alone been selected to attend that summer school. This is understandable in a racist society where African Americans were denied the right to vote. Most African Americans in Montgomery were afraid to attempt to register to vote. However, with persistence and courage I registered to vote in Montgomery two years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott and some six years before I was denied the right to attend the Yale Summer School on Alcohol Studies.
Even the "Montgomery Advertiser" stated that of all the applicants, I was the best qualified to attend the Yale University Summer School. It was noted that I had a Master's Degree in Education, a Master's of Divinity Degree and was pastor of a church in Montgomery.
I charged the Alabama Commisison on Alcoholism and Narcotics with racial discrimination and held a press conference to tell my story in the hope that people throughout America would hear it. The news of my having been denied the right to attend the Yale University Summer School on Alcohol Studies was published in the national media. After officials of the Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan School of Alcohol and Narcotics learned that I had been denied the opportunity to attend the Yale Summer School Studies they invited me to attend their summer school and stated that I would receive a scholarship with all expenses paid, including travel expenses. I accepted the invitation.
My experience in Canada is a memorable one. I shared and learned much. In my autograph book that was autographed by most of the people attending the school and some others, on August 29, 1960, Everett C. Baldwin, Director of the AMS School writes, "Calgary, Alberta. Dear U.J., In the Garden of your Memory, consider me a rose Where amidst the thorns and greenness Many flowers interpose. Sincerely, Everett C. Baldwin."
One of the things I shared was the sermon I deliverd at the First Baptist Church in Saskatoon. The title of my sermon which was a restatement of "What Love Is and What Love Does," was "Altruism as a Deterrent to Communism and Racism." It was during my senior year at the Gammon Seminary (now a federated school of the Interdenominational Theological Center) that Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin, Russian-born and professor for twenty-five years at Harvard University deliverd the Thirkield Lecture at Gammon Seminary. Lecturing on "Altruism" he emphasized the importance of altruistic love which he described as a science. He said that love can be measured. Although it has been more than a half century since I listened to Sorokin, at present that lecture remains clear in my psyche. It has been and continues to be a factor in my understanding and practice of love. Having been invited to speak at the Frist Baptist Church in Saskatoon gave me another cherished opportunity to speak on altruism - altruistic love.
"Love loves," and as Thurman also declared "Love has no awareness of merit or demerit...and it is the nature of love to love." Earlier, I mentioned that Bell Street Baptist Church was bombed. In his book, "Parting the Water," Taylor Branch writes: "Bell Street Baptist Church suffered the most destructon on the night of the bombs." (p. 200).
This is a demonstration of my practice of love as recorded in my book, "The Montgomery Story - The Unhappy Effects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott" (Published in 1959). It relates to the bombers of these churches. "The question is asked: "Was the judge justified in letting the bombers of these churches remain free? The fact that those men had committed a grave crime is unquestionable. The fact that a person should be punished for the crime he commits is questionable or unquestionable, depending on the particular situation. Montgomery at the time of the trial was experiencing one of her most critical ordeals. Ill will, disharmony and prejudice were at an unsurpassed high. This condition had been created by extremists. These things were worsening all the time. Extremists and perpetrators of violence on both sides according to the demands of justice should have been taken out of society - at least for a while. This was not as easy job. The law itself did not fully cover the scope of this involvement and, to indict and convict some guilty persons while other persons equally guilty remained free can hardly be justified.
This was exactly the nature of the case. Therefore, in light of the castrophe in Montgomery, I come to the defense of the judge and maintain with firmness of conviction that the judge was justified and wise in letting the bombers go free. I know this sounds unthinkable, especially as I am the pastor of a bombed church that was more completely destroyed than any of the other churches bombed. But having lived through the entire tragedy and having seen this monster grow from an infant to a mature, uncontrollable peace-destroyer, I know that convicting the bombers would have added fuel to the already explosive situation." (p. 64)
"Love loves" and whatever else that means, it means that "love is what love does." Here are six things that are important to remember about love:
1. Love is available to all.
2. Love is a positive solution to every problem.
3. Love when well served is always good and
right in every situation.
4. Love is the one thing that you cannot give
away without having it to come back,
and when it comes back it is better than
it was when you gave it.
5. Love enables a person to experience self-
6. Love is God manifested in livingness.
In loving no law can be the
governing power except the ultimate
law of love.
Loving like the law of love
is confronted in every
situation with the question:
"What is the lovely thing to do
in this situation?"
When the law of love reveals
the plan of action to be
taken then all other laws
that conflict with the law
of love become of no effect.
Loving is doing the lovely
thing in every situation.
When I am loving I am in
harmony with the Cosmos.
The closing thought: "Give all to love."
Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields
You are invited to visit: www.uriahfields.com (website is also below). When there click on "Mutuality World Community Church" to read some other pertinent writings by Uriah J. Fields.