Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Jesus said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35
Good morning Prayer Team!
One book I highly recommend every married couple read is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The book not only talks about how to build a long-lasting and loving marriage but it also talks about what to do when marriages get off track. One of the chapters is entitled “Love is a Choice,” and it reminds the reader that in a marriage, or for that matter, in any other relationship, that love is something we choose to give. We choose to love our spouses, our children, our friends, even when they do things that make us mad. In negative circumstances, there are choices: to love, to forgive, to hold grudges, to hate, to leave, and many others. The only way a marriage can be successful, according to Dr. Chapman, is making a conscious and daily choice to love, even when you’ve been hurt or disappointed.
In all of the commandments that Christ gave to His followers, all of His teachings can be summed up in one word: LOVE. All of the 613 commandments of the Old Testament were summarized in two commandments—to love God and to love one another. And even these two commandments are summarized in one word—love. Jesus, in fact, commanded His followers to love. He said, “A new COMMANDMENT (not suggestion or idea) I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He continued on, “By THIS all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” We are not known as Christ’s followers because we build impressive church buildings. Or because we have an old family Bible that’s been in the family for hundreds of years. Or because we wear a nice cross around our necks. Or even because we are very involved in the church. Because one can do any or all of these things and still not have love. Love and God are synonymous. God is love.
One thing that is not synonymous with love is “fear.” Where there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no need to fear. In I John 4:18, we read “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” So, when we are in a relationship with someone else, and that person is in fear of us, or we are in fear of them, then the love of God cannot be present as it should. Christ tells us even to love our enemies.
While the greatest commandment God gives us is to love, love still remains a choice we each have to make in each circumstance. We are not forced to love. After all, we have free will. Love puts aside fear. Love brings us closer not only to one another but to God as well. And love witnesses for our faith. There are, as we can see, lots of reasons to choose love. And thankfully, love is a choice that is never wrong. It is never wrong to choose to love someone. And love is a language everyone understands. Deep down, it’s the thing we all want the most. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that love is easy. In fact, sometimes the hardest choice is to love. But as we read in I John 4:19, “we love because He first loved us.” He chooses to love us, sins and all. We must strive to love one another in the same way. In making your choices today, choose love.
Lord, thank You for the gift of Your love, the love with which you created the world, the love which You showed the world even after it had chosen to not love You. Thank You for loving me enough to bring me into this world, and for loving me enough to show me the path to salvation through the death and Resurrection of Christ. Help me to love others as You have loved me. Help others to know You through my example of love. Love me and don’t leave me, even in the times I don’t love You as I should. Help me make the choice to love today, towards all people and in all circumstances. Amen.
Choose love today!
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