On Christian love
Of no subject did our Lord and His Apostles speak more often than of love; love is the very foundation of the Christian life. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). It is the greatest commandment of our Lord, and the chief sign of his followers. “A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
Today, when the spirit of Antichrist prevails in the world, men again speak of love; many who call themselves Christians cooperate with unbelievers and pagans thinking to build a “new age” of “brotherly love” and “peace on earth.” But these are a worldly “love” and “peace” that are no more than a deceptive imitation and mockery of true Christian love and peace. “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51). The lot of the Christian in this life is one of constant warfare with the world and its temptations; and even love, if it be not the love of Jesus Christ, can be such a temptation. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).
Christian love seems difficult to the world, primarily because its reward is not in this life, but in the life to come. Those who preach worldly “peace” and “love” do not believe in the future life, or else they believe in it half-heartedly, regarding it as something vague and distant. For the Orthodox Christian, on the other hand, the whole meaning of love resides in its fulfillment in eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The worldly man, if he loves his fellow man, does so out of pity for his weakness and mortality, and from concern to make his short life pleasant while it lasts; such love has no power over death, and it ends with death. The Christian, however, loves his fellow man because he sees in him one created in the image of God and called to perfection and eternal life in God; such love is not human but divine, seeing in men not mere earthly mortality, but heavenly immortality.
Our Lord has warned us: “Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22), and in time of persecution Christians may well be tempted to doubt, to fear, and even to hate in return. But Christian love, which is not bound by death, is powerful enough to overcome these temptations. Our Lord has commanded us: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). In these commandments the standards of the world are reversed and overthrown, and the way is opened to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is to be an eternal Feast of Love.
Father Seraphim (Rose)
On love for God and one’s neighbor
In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear of how a certain lawyer asked the Lord: “Master, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” The Lord said to him in reply: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
These words primarily instruct us on how boundlessly we should love God. We should love Him not only with a certain quality or ability of our soul, but with our entire being. All the talents, all the powers with which God has endowed our nature, our soul, our heart, our mind, our will, - we must subject to God, we must illuminate and animate with love for Him.
The heart and soul of man have within them a tendency to serve and to model themselves on the being whom they love with all their might. Thus, if we love God with all our heart, - our hearts will become filled with kindness, goodness and love for mankind; if we love God with all our soul, - our souls will become transfigured and will be able to see God; if we love God with all our might, - our natural abilities will be purified and will be used only for the doing of good; and, finally, if we love God with all our mind, - our minds, our thoughts and all our qualities will be filled with divine intelligence, and will live and act only in truth.
But it seems so simple to us – of course we all love God, right? Wrong! Let us examine, dear brethren, whether we truly love God.
St. John the Evangelist explains it to us thus: “Whosoever says – ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he can see, how can he love God whom he cannot see? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.”
In His reply to the lawyer the Lord gives us the proper measure of loving our neighbor: we should love each one of our neighbors as we love ourselves. No one wants to offend himself or hurt himself, everyone strives for one’s own advantage and benefit; we must try to act towards others in exactly the same manner. And only then, when we learn to treat those around us so sincerely, we will be able to feel and develop within ourselves a sincere love for God, which will give us joy, serenity and peace in our souls.
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There are various forces in the universe which operate in it and control it: for example, the force of gravity, electricity, magnetism, etc. But there is one force, the most important in the world, which is much greater than all the others, which not only controls the universe, but which actually created the universe. This force is love. Because of God’s overflowing love, the universe and everything that is in it was created, so that all could enjoy and delight in the life that God had given. Because of God’s love for His creation, man was created, so that he could enjoy and delight in life and all creation, so that in his love for God and fellow men he could feel this great and wondrous force. This force is so wondrous and so great that because of His love for His fallen creation – man, God the Father did not spare His Only Son, but gave Him as a sacrifice to atone for man’s sin.
Here is what Apostle Paul tells us about the importance and the significance of love (1 Cor. 13:1-3): “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have not love, I am as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and have all knowledge and all faith, so that I could move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
Apostle Paul goes on to explain to us the qualities and manifestations of true love as a divine force. Only those who experience in their hearts and in their souls these precise qualities, who develop these qualities in their feelings and relations with the people around them, will be able to feel a spark of the Love which created the universe and opened the gates of paradise to mankind:
|“Love suffers long, and is kind,
Love envies not,
Love does not vaunt itself, is not puffed up,
Does not behave unseemly, does not seek its own,
Is not easily provoked, thinks no evil,
Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth,
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
|Father Rostislav Sheniloff.