This lesson is addressing one of the great temptation and distortions on the spiritual path—loving God without loving other people. I see this as taking two main forms.
One form is where you love and worship God, singing praises to His wonderful name, but then judge the hell out of other people. This may appear to be some kind of disconnect, but if you think about it, the first can lead naturally to the second. Honoring God seems to naturally entail judging those who dishonor Him. The right attitude toward God is praise and worship and obedience; an impassioned, celebratory bowing to Him. This elicits God's approval. Those who exhibit the opposite, who disobey God instead, naturally elicit divine disapproval. And being so godly, we join God in that disapproval.
The other form seems much more enlightened. This is where your spiritual efforts go into pursuit of union with God. These pursuits may not be directed at God as such; they may be conceived as realization of the impersonal Ground of Being, even as dissolution in the Emptiness. But those are not so different, because in all three cases our efforts are directed toward the Divine—and correspondingly directed away from other people, who are simply not that important. They are not our goal, and indeed seem radically at odds with our goal. Our goal is God, the sublime formlessness of Heaven, while other people are concrete forms, petty animals scurrying after their food and shelter. We are aiming for the skies, not the dirt. How could we have time for people when our whole goal is to transcend their meager lot, when we have put our shoulder to the heroic quest for the Infinite?
We probably recognize both of these attitudes, and have probably known people who recognizably fit one bill or the other. Each attitude sees very little in common with the other, yet on stepping back, both can be seen to have a great deal in common. In both, a positive orientation toward God entails a negative orientation toward others.
And let's be honest—we probably have some of this in ourselves. The fact is that it's so much easier to love God than to love others. God is perfect. God is loving; indeed, is Love. God is without flaw, without selfishness. Once you understand what God is, loving God is the only rational response. How can you not love Him when He is Love?
By contrast, it's much harder to love other people. They aren't perfect. They often aren't loving. They are riddled with flaws. They are predominantly selfish. All the reasons for loving God become reasons to not love people, or at least love them guardedly, selectively, partially, and sporadically.
This lesson is designed to reverse all of this seemingly natural and understandable thinking. The idea for the day says, "To love my Father is to love His Son." Loving God and loving others are not incompatible. Indeed, they are more than compatible—they are the same thing. To love God is to love others, because others are part of God, one with God, made of God's Being. The previous attitudes I discussed are like saying, "I absolutely love the sun, but I hate sunshine." God is the sun, we are the rays. How can you love one and not the other?
Clearly, the principle goes the other way as well. "To love my Father is to love His Son" implies "To hate the Son is to hate the Father, too." This is why the big message of the lesson is that we can only find God, know God, awaken to God, if we absolutely love His Son—meaning, love everyone without condition and without exception. Look at the first two lines:
Let me not think that I can find the way to God, if I have hatred in my heart. Let me not try to hurt God's Son, and think that I can know his Father or my Self.
Those two attitudes I mentioned earlier—praise God/judge others and unite with God/ignore others—both assume that I can find God without loving His Son. This lesson is there to tell us differently. The way to God is through loving our brothers. As Lesson 256 will say, "The way to God is through forgiveness here." The awakened master who is directly in touch with pure spirit and is adored by throngs yet resents his failing students and his unenlightened competitors is not awake, not yet.
The prayer for this lesson is really a case of us reasoning ourselves into accepting this way to God. This implies that we don't accept this way. And the lesson is right—we don't. That's why we naturally gravitate toward other ways of finding God—through meditation, prayer, scripture study, and all the other forms through which we believe we will become righteous, awake, pure, holy, etc. In talking about the plan of forgiveness, which is what we are really talking about here, Lesson 198 mentions our ceaseless attempts to "oppose it, quarrel with it, seek to find a thousand ways in which it must be wrong; a thousand other possibilities" (W-pI.198.4:3). Let's face it, the last thing we want to do is learn to truly love our brothers. The universal silent prayer is "Please, God, anything but that."
Let's look at how this prayer reasons us into accepting rather than fighting this plan:
I will accept the way You choose for me to come to You, my Father.
I begin the prayer by announcing the place I'm trying to reach. I'm trying to accept the way God has chosen for me to come to Him—through loving my brothers. This acceptance makes sense, doesn't it? After all, isn't God the One Who's in the position to know how I can best come to Him?
For in that will I succeed, because it is Your Will.
I ought to accept the way God has chosen, because that's how I'll succeed. I am in effect saying, "I accept this path up the mountain, because that's how I'll make it to the top."
And I would recognize that what You will is what I will as well, and only that.
As the previous line said, reaching God through loving our brothers is His Will. Now, in this line, I acknowledge that His Will is my will, too. What He wants, I want. It's not that He wants holy things and I want unholy things. Both of our wills are pulling in the same holy direction. My will is so holy that I can say, "I want what You want, and only that."
And so I choose to love Your Son. Amen.
Here's the conclusion. If He wants me to come to Him through loving others, and if my will is the same as His, then I want to come to Him through loving others. His choice has become my choice. Amen.
Let's use today to make this choice, to stop opposing, quarreling with, and avoiding His plan, but to unite our will with it. Let this be the day we stop separating love of God and love of others, and recognize at last that "To love my Father is to love His Son."