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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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 14:34-35
The Bible is filled with “commandments”. Most of know the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are actually ten out of 613 commandments that are found in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The 613 commandments became so cumbersome that no one could follow all of them. People had a hard time even memorizing them.
Jesus summarized all the commandments into two—love God and love your neighbor. And He summarized them even further into one word: Love. To serve God is to manifest love. Sin is the absence of love.
I remember during my seminary studies, one day I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we needed to know. And I called my spiritual father in a panic and said, “What is it that I absolutely have to know in order to be a priest?” His answer was simple. He said I needed to know how to love people. He said “If you don’t love people, you will never be an effective priest.” That doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn a lot of things, but that the primary job of the priest is to manifest the love of God to people—through worship, prayer, preaching, teaching and counseling.
Saint Paul, in his treatise on love in I Corinthians 13, tells us:
If I speak in the tongues of man and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (I Corinthians 13: 1-3)
So, if you ever feel overwhelmed by all of the stuff you think you have to master in order to be a Christian, remember that one thing is more important than everything else, and that is love. That doesn’t mean to not pray, read the Bible, or follow the commandments. If you focus on love, it will lead you to these things.
We are all overwhelmed with the business of the world. We forget to tell others we love them. We forget to offer gestures of love, unexpected kindnesses to people. Love is something that is given to someone else. While there may be self-respect or self-confidence, one cannot love himself, because by definition, love is taken from one person and given to another. To take and to give back to oneself is not love. Use today and offer as many expressions of love as possible—whether it is courtesy to other drivers on the road, or a kind word to the clerk in the store. Show love today.
We are wrapping up our discussion of I Thessalonians 5:12-13, on the subject of esteeming others highly. We have discussed this over the course of several reflections. And just like my seminary experience, looking at the Bible word by word can be intimidating. It is important to study the words of the Bible in depth, just like it was important to study the various aspects of theology in depth when I was at the seminary. However, the study of Scripture doesn’t amount to much if there is no application of it to our lives. The takeaway from any section of the Bible should be a greater desire to love God and to love others. Every section of Scripture reinforces this idea. So in esteeming others highly, let love lead the way.
As for our Scripture verses today, there are many ways to advertise something. Banners, websites, t-shirts, commercials, and ads are ways companies market their products. Jesus told His followers that it’s not fancy slogans and billboards that will bring people to Him. People will know we are followers of Christ because of love. Christ led with love, which is why He died for us. We follow Him because of this. Others will come to Him because of love. In esteeming others, whoever you esteem today, let love lead.
As a practical matter, tell those who are close to you that you love them. It is important that we demonstrate love. It is important that we say it. It is also important that we hear it. Saying “I love you” to others is very encouraging and empowering for them. Hearing others say it to you have the same effect on you.
Love God. Love other people. Love. This is what matters most in esteeming others highly.
Lord, thank You for your example of what it means to love others. You showed that by loving us so much that You died for us. Help me to offer love freely and joyfully to others. Surround me with people who encourage love. Remember those who I love most in my life (name your family and close friends). Allow our love to grow. Allow our love to honor You. Allow me to honor You with expressions of love today and every day. Amen.
Show love today!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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