To Love... Or Not to Love
I heard a most interesting thought the other day — We only love God as much as we love the person we love the least in this world. Wow, what a loaded thought. Then I reflected on what Saint John the Divine said, that: If we cannot love our neighbor that we see, it impossible to love the God we cannot see. Then I thought to myself, God loves me even though I am a wretched and sinful man. God loves me even though I fail, stumble and fall. He loves me, and thought about me on the day He allowed Himself to hang on the cross, and He did that not only for me, but for the people I love, and even for those I do not. He prayed for the people who put the nails in His hands and feet and put Him on the cross. He truly loved His neighbor as Himself. He loves the Lord, His God with all His heart, mind and soul. He held nothing back—not even His own life!
How can I not love my neighbor? I know that I have been angry at various people thoughout my life. I have hated and wanted to inflict harm on others for hurting me. I have hardened my heart against those who have hurt my loved ones. However, if God the Father did just the same to us that day that we hung His Son on the cross, we would be dead with no hope of anything to come. I know if someone was attempting to kill my son, I would do everything I could to put a stop to it. So often we think about the pain that Jesus felt on the cross, but how about the pain it inflicted on His Father. The heartache the Lord must feel every time we lead ourselves into sin, every time I push the crown of thorns a little deeper, every time I strike the nail going through His wrist and feet—I am just as guilty as the Roman Soldier was that day—actually, even more so because I know the truth and I still inflict wounds on my God.
I say that I love God. I say that I serve Him. I tell myself these things, and I tell myself that I am a Christian and that I am a good man, however, really I am not. I find myself wasting time and effort doing evil things. I swear sometimes, I sometimes smoke, I lust, and I am a glutton. I have been angry at the church for some time now because I am a casualty of what they decide to do to appease others. I have been angry at the leaders of the church because of the way they run things or their general lack of understanding, mercy and compassion. I have and do these things and God still loves me as-much-as God loves them. How on earth can I justify my evil actions and good inactions and still call myself a Christian? Yes, I truly believe that I am a warrior for God, as you can clearly see from my other blogs I love to write about the Armor of God and about spiritual warfare, however, most days I find myself holding back from the battle—I fear getting wounded again and again and again. I fear some days to take the next leap of faith in fear that I will be wounded again and not just wounded, but severely wounded to the point that it separates me from the faith and God I love. I fear that I will fail and that my failure will reflect my life. I fear many things, however if I just learned to love as Jesus loved.
Is it not written in 1 John 4 that: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because he first loved us. If someone says “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
That is what I seek after, that is what I desire to have—perfect love. If I had that, I would not fear. I would not be in this daily torment of struggle and depression. I do not want to be a liar by saying, “I love God” while I have ill will toward my brother. The gospel reading for last Sunday, February 5th – the start of Triodion and the first of the Lenten preparation weeks at our church, The Lord said this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The truth, be told, I have and can place myself in both men’s shoes. I have done and said as both men said. No matter how justified I find myself in how I feel—I am wrong. It is not my job to judge others, or to compare myself to another, or to hold any person’s life in my hands— THANK GOD! How many times have I been angry at my neighbor, whoever he or she is, at sinning against me, when I have done the same? Christ came to save all sinners. The word all includes everyone, no man or woman has been blameless or sinless.
We need to ask ourselves, Am I living according to what I think of myself to be? I know that I fight the good fight, but I also know I can do more. I know that I need to bring myself to a place of perfect love—I do not want to fear anything anymore. I want the love of God to shine forth from me so that I can help others to the arms of Christ. I am a servant of God—or at least I try to be. We need to be humble, and loving and kind. We need to be understanding and patient. We need to be as Christ was and is—which is not impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. We need to put ourselves last and God Himself will bring us to the front of the line.
We are not alone in this battle. We are never put into the fray without divine guidance or divine aid. Every day we face an enemy that is ruthless, cunning and more powerful than all armies on this planet—Satan never stops and never rests in his task. And with an enemy that never rests we find ourselves getting tired, worn and burnt out. We find ourselves broken and bleeding and some still wanting to fight. Some are broken and in despair find themselves too weak to fight and give themselves over to the enemy and are taken captive by his many devices. Whatever side you find yourself on know this—GOD LOVES YOU. Nothing can change this. Nothing can change His mind. This short time we have on the earth is a time of mercy—it is a time that we get to draw close to God and bring ourselves to a place of perfect love. Our time on the earth is filled with evil—but it is also filled with grace and mercy. We are never alone. We need to fight until we cannot fight anymore.
The final thought I have today is something I heard on the TV series Firefly, where Nathan Fillen’s character Malcolm Reynolds said: If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. If you cannot crawl, find someone to carry you. Never give up hope, because Hope never gives up on you!