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
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—Unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5
Good morning Prayer Team!
[Today we conclude our unit on the Great Commandments. On the weekends we will continue to study the Gospels of the Triodion and on weekdays beginning Monday, we will be talking about the journey of Great Lent.]
When I do pre-marital counseling, I talk about the “keys to an effective marriage” discussing many of the aspects of loving God and loving our neighbor that we have discussed in this unit. When I’m done with the explanation, I will show the couple a list of all of the “keys” and ask “which one of these can you remove from your relationship and still have an effective marriage?” They will study the list and after a few minutes, will usually ask “Well, you can’t take out any, right?” And the answer is “YES, you can’t take out any. They all matter, because they are all related. You can’t have honesty without trust, you can’t have trust without honesty. Take out respect and you can’t work together, with no patience there is no fun, if you have no goals there is no incentive to work. And if a relationship isn’t “intimate”, then how great can it possibly be?
If we seek to love God, we can’t do so without loving our neighbor. And if we love our neighbor but have no relationship with God, then the relationship will have not have the Divine purpose that the Lord has ordained for all relationships. It is He who has ordained this Divine purpose. It is our choice whether we follow this call.
Today’s evaluation looks at all the things we’ve discussed over the past several weeks. Make a quick rating of all of them. And recognize that if you’ve given any of them 7’s and 8’s, eventually all of them will come down to 7’s and 8’s. If anything is lower than that, they eventually all end up lower.
Having goals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
There are thousands of books written on how to be a good Christian. The Bible is long and intimidating to many. When you boil it down, all of Christianity comes down to one word—love. A love of God for us that led Him to create us. A love of Christ that led Him to die for us, to redeem us when we had fallen away from Him. I have heard the Bible described simply as God’s love letter to us. It’s main message is love.
There are lots of Traditions in the Christian world. Priests and pastors struggle to write perfect sermons. People like me try to write inspirational messages and try to find original ways to say what is so simple to say, yet in many respects so hard to do. Everything in life—God’s expectations of us, and our roadmap to His Kingdom, revolve around loving Him and loving one another.
Today’s prayer is Saint Paul’s treatise on love, I Corinthians 13: 1-13:
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 both to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In the end, love is all that matters. And our entrance into Paradise will be based on how well we cultivated it and shared it, with God and with one another.
Thank you for reading my messages and for praying for me. By God’s grace, I hope that I am conveying messages of love to you.
Photo credit: Ali Carr
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