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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
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!
There are many parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand. Today’s verses, even though they come from the Gospel of John which is generally regarded as the most “theological” (and therefore more difficult to comprehend) of the Gospels, are actually fairly easy and straightforward to understand.
Of all the “commandments” in the Bible, Jesus boiled it down to love—in this verse, that we love one another, as He has loved us. What does that mean? Jesus died for our sins. He was willing to die for us. We should be willing to die for one another. Jesus never said no to someone who needed help. We are supposed to do the same, to help our neighbor without conditions. This is the ideal. And of course, through our fallen humanity, we fall short of this ideal.
Jesus goes on to say “by THIS all men will know that you are My disciples.” If we have love for one another, this is what will mark us as His disciples. Even more so, if we connect this phrase to the verse before, people will know that we are Christ’s disciples if we love others as He loved us. If we love one another so that we would die for one another, and help one another without condition or restriction, then certainly people would take note because love to this degree isn’t really found much of anywhere in our world today.
Going back to yesterday’s thoughts on the parable of the Good Samaritan, when the man asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” he was hoping for a quantifiable answer. How much easier this could all be if Jesus told us to do 10,000 good deeds and that would get us into heaven. We’d all set about it in earnest.
Loving our neighbor, and helping our neighbor are things that are not quantifiable. We are supposed to help without counting, to give without reservation, to serve without expectation of reward. That means if you help your neighbor one hundred times and he never says “thank you” you are still supposed to keep helping him.
Love is more than gestures of kindness towards others. Love includes forgiving others even when they don’t deserve it. It includes being patient and kind to those who annoy us. It includes giving people second chances they don’t deserve.
Again, of all of the “commandments” we find in the Bible, the one that is said most succinctly by Christ is the command to love one another.
Loving As He Loves Us—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I demonstrate the kind of love the Jesus told me to have for my neighbor? Will anyone think I’m a Christian by the way I treat others?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some ways that you can connect love for your neighbor with your Christianity. See if you can think of examples where your love mirrored Christ’s love, and examples of when you could have acted in a more Christ-like manner.
Lord, thank You for the example of love that You gave us. Thank You for Your teachings on love which You left for us. Help me to love others as You have loved me. Help me to forgive others as You forgive me. Help me to treat others in a loving and Christian way. Amen.
A popular Protestant hymn says “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Witness your Christianity not by what you say, but by what you do, and how you love others!
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Photo Credit: Holy Family Parish
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