In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in One God Amen!
"LOVE" Pt. 1
There is a verse in the Bible which has been translated into more than 1100 languages and is understood by more than three-quarters of the earth's population. It tells of one’s everlasting love. The verse is John 3:16."For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." ~ John 3:16
In a Christians life 'LOVE' is above and beyond all and the first of the Spirit's fruit. What binds the ten commandments is love. When one asked our LORD and savior, Jesus Christ, ''Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:36-37). Saint Paul also gave love's heightened power by saying "walk in love, which is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:14). James is another Apostle who reminds us what love is, he describes love as a royal law. He farther goes on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, [if you do this] you do well" (James 2:8).Although there has been a lot said about love in our time, she [love] hasn't found any place to rest on. She has been an orphan from mankind, where she couldn't dwell in today. But then why do we love and how do we love?
Why do we love?
A person who doesn't know God's love can't love others, a person who doesn't know the mercy of the LORD can't give mercy to others. The LORD loves us even though we are sinners. while still His enemies He was crucified, died & has saved (redeemed) us. He who has loved us, to whom we never have spent love all was done through His free grace. "Freely you received, so freely give" (Matthew 10:8). But not only His Grace is enough for our salvation, as the apostle James said, "What good is it, my brothers if a man says he has faith but has no works" (James 2:14)? our actions are necessary as well. As our LORD has abundantly loved us without hesitation, by this reason let us love all without hesitation and/or limitations.
How do we love?
Our LORD and savior have taught us how to love. He says, "… you [should] love one another, just like I have loved you" (John 13:34). If we ought to love like LORD Christ, then we must first know how he loves us.
- The LORD always loves us, because God is Love himself and his love is marvelous as the wise Solomon sings, “your love makes me happier than wine does” (Song of Solomon 1:2). God does as He wishes without limitations, no need to say, there isn't anyone or anything that can stop His will: to punish the sinful (sinners), He can destroy His enemies’ almighty power. Instead, His Love saves them: His mercy surrounds them and gives His forgiveness to those who have done wrong. Through prophet Malachi (1:2), the LORD says, "I have always loved you!" Again, through the mouth of prophet Jeremiah, he says, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn you" (31:3). He ‘ALWAYS’ loves us, His Love stands beyond time and place. Then it’s only fair we too my brethren and sisters ‘ALWAYS’ love our LORD. "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with" (1 Corinthians 13:8).
- God has loved His enemies: and He has taught and commanded us to love our enemies. Son of God and God Himself Jesus Christ got incarcerated to save mankind and the world by His crucifixion on the Holy Cross, even though we did not have the work of righteousness or were worthy of being saved. But why does it say in the bible that “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Are we still sinners? This is to explain all men were in iniquity and the world was corrupted (Genesis 6:11). Apostle Saint Paul speaks of this superb love that redeemed us, “For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6). If we love those who have done good to us and hate those who are our enemies, we are still living in the customs of the people (meaning those who aren't believers). The new commandment that was given by our LORD Jesus Christ is "… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:44-48). As it is clear in these last words all commandments are held within love; so, let us wear love as we are the children of our Heavenly Father.
- God has shown His love by death. He who talked through the high prophet Moses said to show us his love, He came down from heaven and was crucified in the cross. Apostle Saint John proclaims and tells of the divine true love, not the worldly love, “By this, we know love, that He (Christ) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” In our Liturgy (Kidassie) a lot is said about God's love. In the Anaphora of Saint John’s Chrysostom, the priest chants with Saint Yared hymns the love of Christ."Love drew down the Son of God from His throne and brought Him unto death. Him, who had no wickedness, they crucified as wicked. Him, who is the maker of life, they numbered with the wicked. Oh, the hands which formed Adam were nailed with the nails of the cross. Oh, the feet which walked in the garden were nailed with the nails of the cross. Ye who love Him, weep and mourn over him." -One of the 14 Ge’ze Kidassie/Liturgy of Eritrean Tewahdo Orthodox church.
The LORD God has said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
So, if we say we love God the LORD, this love must be in keeping and accomplishing His commandments. But if “I love You!’’ are just words that don’t follow actions, then we are not worthy of His love. But if we have the will to do what He commends that is the proof of our love for the LORD.
Some people may understand love through; flowers, love letters, songs, poems, gifts, or Valentine’s day, but in Orthodox we know love through what Apostle John has taught us. The love we know of is by deeds not explained by words, through the shedding of blood, not the written ink. It’s what we mean by Saint Yared’s chant (mezmur) with kebero “በደሙ ክቡር ቤዘወነ፥ አኮ በወርቅ ኃላፊ ዘተሣየጠነ……bdemu kibur biezewene Ako bewerk Halafi zetesayeTene……He has ransomed us through His holy blood, not by gold than perishable” (1 Peter 1:18-19). A love that wishes to give without hesitation, a love that asks mercy for her enemies and is never pleased by their fall, a love that endures but never judges, a love that wishes her partner to be pleased but never wishes any for herself.
Let's see who has imitated Christ by love:
- Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen. He preached the Love of Christ but he himself lived in it first. When the elders and scribes came against him, seized him, brought him upon council (Acts 6:11-15). Instead of cursing them the blessed Deacon Stephen, “He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, don't hold this sin against them!" What a marvelous act, he said the exact words said by our LORD upon the Holy Cross as he was getting stoned (Luke 23:34).
church fathers’ commentaries on this:
- Finally, “when he had said this, he fell asleep.” He did not die but fell asleep in the darkness of the night of this world, to wake up in the light of the day of God, who wipes out his tears and brings him up into the joy of his Lord, to share with the heavenly hosts their joy and rejoice.By loving your enemy, you become a friend of God, and even His son, according to the words of the Lord Himself: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you. That you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5.44-45)
Although Stephen was ordained a deacon by the apostles, he became ahead of the apostles themselves by his victorious blessed death even though he was of a lesser rank became superior in passion. (Caesarius Bishop of Arles).
Part two will follow..
Glory to One Almighty God, Amen!