“Love Builds Up”—Whom and How?
WHAT a wealth of meaning, what truth in those three words: “Love builds up”! Love builds up mentally and physically; it builds up also morally and spiritually. Time and again those words of the apostle Paul have been applied to the psychosomatic effects that love has on the mentally and physically ill, and not without good reason.—1 Cor. 8:1.
Typical of the wealth of testimony concerning the power of love to build up are the words of Dr. Leo Bartemeir. As medical director of a psychiatric institute, he once stated that love should have its place among the remedies of the physician along with antibiotics, vaccines and other medicines. “The physician’s love for his patient and the patient’s love for his physician is a powerful influence in the restoration of patients,” he said. He holds that the modern trend of practitioners to be ‘objective’ or detached in dealing with their patients is a mistake and that “the love of the physician for his patients was the central and necessary element in relieving them.”
However, true as it is that by love we can build up others, that does not happen to be what the apostle Paul was writing about. In the same 1 Co 8 verse 1 he states that “knowledge puffs up.” Since Paul meant that a certain kind of knowledge tended to puff up those having that particular knowledge, he must have meant in the case under discussion that love builds up those having it; that those giving expression to love would themselves benefit thereby. In fact, in the foregoing quotation by Dr. Bartemeir this fact is recognized. How so? In that he not only notes that the love of the physician builds up the patient but that the love of the patient builds up—the physician?—no, but the patient himself! In the same vein anthropologist Ashley Montagu wrote that “love is creative, greatly enriching the lives of both the receiver and the giver.”
Further testifying to the truth of Paul’s words that “love builds up” is a textbook of psychosomatic medicine by Professors Weiss and English: “The person who has the capacity to love is usually loved in return. The capacity to extend good will and consideration into every aspect of life, familial, marital, sexual and parental, has a marked constructive effect upon the person who extends such feelings as well as upon the person who receives them and thus brings pleasure to both.” (Italics added.) Yes, just as archaeologists keep making discoveries that verify the Bible’s historical records, so psychiatrists are verifying the accuracy and wisdom of the Bible’s counsel as to human relations.
A little reflection will make clear just how true it is that love builds up the one loving. Our great and loving and wise Creator built in us a hormonal system that functions best when we live in line with his righteous and wise principles. The science of psychosomatics has demonstrated the harm that comes to a person who indulges in such negative emotions as malice, anger, bitterness, greed, self-pity, envy and frustration. While resulting in harm to others, they harm most of all the one giving way to such emotions.
Logically, it must therefore follow that when we give expression to wholesome, constructive emotions, chief of which is unselfish love, we build up not only others but primarily ourselves, even as is implied in the words of the Lord Jesus: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
While it is true that love for your mate, for your family and for a close friend can build you up, from the apostle’s use of the Greek word agápe it is clear that he had in mind the unselfish, principled love that is free from any personal considerations. That this love builds up is further seen by his description of it. He tells that this kind of love is long-suffering, that it is patient and kind, that it is able to bear and endure all things and that it never fails. Helping to account for love’s building up is the fact that it dispels weakening emotions such as pride, jealousy and greed.—1 Cor. 13:4-8.
An unselfish love for Jehovah God and for our neighbor will enable us to resist temptations to do wrong or to follow a self-serving course, which may be entirely “legal” but which does not build us up. When we stand by our principles, our ideals, when we gain the victory over our selfish and fallen inclinations, we not only keep a clean conscience but are built up morally and spiritually thereby. Then we will find the inspired proverb to be true in our case: “The righteous are like a young lion that is confident.” Like ancient Job we will be able to refute those who would impugn our motives, and we will be able to plead a good conscience before God.—Prov. 28:1; Job 16:1-4; 29:1-25.
Love also might be said to build up because it is apt to be self-rewarding. Not that that is the reason for expressing love, but that is what most likely will follow. As Jesus Christ expressed it: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. . . . For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) A noted woman psychoanalyst wrote a book of admonition to unhappily married women, and the sum and substance of it was that truly loving and submitting to their husbands was the most rewarding thing they could do. Family members can gain happiness by working at making each other happy.
Here is another Scriptural example of this Bible principle. In encouraging the materially prosperous Christians at Corinth to show unselfish love toward their needy brothers in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul wrote: “He that sows . . . bountifully will also reap bountifully.”—2 Cor. 9:6.
“Love builds up”—whom? The appreciative receiver, to be sure, but even more so the giver, the one loving. The giver is built up in every way, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He reaps bountifully and is loved by God, for “God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:7.