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
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
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a 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
Good morning Prayer Team!
We’ve begun our unit on evaluating ourselves on the two great commandments by talking first about goal setting and why humility is needed in order to grow and change. The next several reflections will focus on love and how to love God and then on the meaning of the word “neighbor” and how to love our neighbor. We will then resume the various key attributes that help us to better do both. First, however, let’s examine the word love.
Love is one of the most misused words in the English language. We say “I love my spouse” and “I love pizza” using the same verb, even though there is no comparison between our spouse and a pizza. In the Greek language, there are various words for love, including “filia” or friendship, “eros” or romantic love, and “agape.” “Agape” is the verb that is used in Luke 10:27, when Jesus talks about loving God and loving our neighbor. Agape is also the word that is used in the above quote from I Corinthians 13.
Agape is both a feeling and an action. In fact, it is a feeling that inspires an action. There is no such thing as love without action. Because love involves taking something from oneself and offering it to someone or something else. For instance, one can show love for someone else by giving time to them, by helping them. One can show love by taking feelings and expressing them to someone else. One can show love by altering the course of his or her life in order to serve someone else.
Love involves sacrifice, because in order to love, one has to give or sacrifice something. However, love involves sacrifice made with joy, not begrudgingly. And love offered with joy is called “service,” or “diakonia,” where one puts himself or herself into the service of someone else, or in service to God. Something offered out of obligation is not love. Love is something offered in joy.
There really is no such thing as loving oneself. Because love by definition is something taken from oneself and offered to someone or something else. One can have self-confidence and self-respect, but there is no such thing as self-love. As St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 13, at the end of the day, and at the end of life, if a life was lived without love, it won’t matter how many riches we’ve acquired or what we’ve done. On the other hand, if we’ve loved and served others, it won’t matter what we didn’t accomplish. Because love is the one attribute that God will reward most of all. So, spend a few moments thinking about how loving you are.
Love (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: If God is love, and you are a child of God, accepting His love, how is God’s love present in your life? How is God’s love present in your relationships with your neighbor?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
What can you better manifest God’s love in your life? Write down some ways that you demonstrate your love for God.
Love (from a relationship perspective)—Do I build loving, committed relationships with people? Do I genuinely love my friends? Am I more giving or taking in my relationships? Do I allow people to love me?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some ways to show more love in your relationships with others, in your marriage, in your relationships with your children, with friends and with co-workers.
Lord, thank You the many words and examples that teach me what love is. Make my heart open to learning more about love and showing love to You and to those around me. Help me to understand what it means to love and to serve. Help me to love You and love others more and more each day. Amen.
Focus on loving gestures towards others today!
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Photo Credit: Desiring God
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