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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
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 (From the First Gospel on Holy Thursday Evening), Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
Everyone lives busy lives. We even call our lives “crazy busy” at times. And Christ knows that our lives are busy. If you envision scenes from the Bible, we have a picture of “crazy busy” times back then as well—think busy Bethlehem at the Nativity, or the chaos in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. So, Christ boiled down all of the commandments and expectations of His followers into ONE word: LOVE. “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.” Love. THIS is how people will know that we are His disciples. It doesn’t matter what skills we have—we all have different ones. It’s not about how big our family is, or how many children we have, or where did they (or we) to college, or what kind of car we drive. LOVE is the barometer by which others will know that we are Christ’s disciples. LOVE is the barometer by which Christ will judge our lives.
Sin is not only doing wrong. Sin is failure to do right. Sin, on the most basic level, is failure to love. The root cause of all sin is failure to love.
Saint Paul writes in his Epistle to the Corinthians, that “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.” (I Corinthians 13: 4-6) And in the Epistle of St. John we read “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:17) So where there is jealousy and boasting, arrogance or rudeness, irritability or resentfulness, where there is negativity and fear, there cannot be love, because love is none of these things. And where there is love, there is an absence of fear, there is patience and kindness, humility and optimism.
Jesus told His Disciples in John 15:13, that “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The greatest love is selfless. It forsakes everything up to giving up one’s own life for someone else. After all, what could be a greater gift than for someone to die in the place of another? And Jesus did not just preach this, He did it. He laid down His life for us, to not only save our sins, but to demonstrate for us what real love is.
Love is not just a nice word we put down on paper, nor is it merely an expression between people who say “I love you.” Love is an action. Love is something taken from me and given to you, or taken from you and given to me. There is no love for oneself. Because one cannot take from himself and then give to himself. One can have self-respect and self-confidence, but love is taking from oneself and projecting onto someone else.
Which then leads to the question of how we meet gestures of love made towards us. Do we meet them with reciprocal expressions of love, with indifference or with hate? Most certainly we meet them with love. So, if God loved us so much that He sent His Only-Begotten Son to die for our sins; and if Jesus Christ loved us so much that He endured the Passion and Crucifixion for us; and if God loves us so much that He has granted us so many blessings, starting off with the very day we are living in, should we not respond to His love by loving Him, and by loving one another. Going back to the examination of ourselves in confession, it begins and ends with love. This is the barometer on which our final Judgment will be based on, and this is the barometer to use in this life as we make examination of conscience and confession.
A popular Christian songs said “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Indeed, Christ told us that people will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. And this does not mean only our families, but even to those we do not know, we should show love and concern. Finally, there are many people who show love and concern for others and forget to love their families. We are to love everyone. This is how we manifest our love for God. Again, from the words of the Epistle of St. John, “We love, because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
As brothers in Christ, let us acquire brotherly love. Let us not lack compassion for our neighbors, that we may not be condemned like the unmerciful servant on account of money, or repent like Judas to no avail. (From the Fourth Antiphon of the Service of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Manifest God’s love in your life today!
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