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The Requirements of Love

by V. Berzonsky
"Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong" (l Corinthians 13:5).

To follow Jesus it is not enough to pray to Jesus. One must be like Him as much as possible. This means bearing one's cross, which is immeasurably more than wearing a cross on a chain around one's neck

Many are they who are rude, touchy, harbouring a list of offences already years old against those who did them injury in the past, who await the day when all of them will "get what's coming to them" for all the suffering and misery they caused our "Christians," who feel themselves elected to God's Kingdom and have nothing more to do than than to go through the unpleasant experience of death in order to reap their reward on the other side.

How simple it would be if we were to heed the call 'Follow me," assuming we were doing precisely that in our own private ways. That is the gospel, of course; however it follows an important requirement. Christ said just prior to the invitation:

'Take up your cross daily..."(Lk 9:23).

St John Chrysostom reminded us that Jesus is the Shepherd of sheep and not of wolves; therefore, when we turn ourselves into wolves to fight back against vicious attacks, know that we are without Christ. Jesus is not battling with us, since we have chosen to forsake His teachings and example to go it alone, in the way of the world. We move even further away from Christ when we utilise every opportunity to serve ourselves, for this is not the way of the Lord. "Love is not easily angered." When you lose your temper, you lose touch with the indwelling Christ. St Maximos the Confessor, insisted, "Cleanse your mind of anger, grudges, and shameful thoughts. Then you will be able to know the indwelling of Christ."

The modern, weak Christian would prefer to do his Christian witnessing another way. He first acts like a pagan and a savage, losing his temper, throwing a tantrum, leaving the scene of a provocation with bitter, resentful thoughts, then after the fact, he pleads a blessing from the Lord. But the Lord never promised us He would be an indulgent nanny, patching up our ego wounds. Each situation that tests our spirituality is a challenge to our faith. Are we truly Cross-bearers, or are we frauds? Do we have the abiding presence of Christ in each situation of our daily lives, or is our faith something ceremonial, reserved for Sunday mornings and brief snatches of prayer on the margins of the day? Christ is limited by His holiness and purity. He simply cannot abide in us alongside anger, lust, deceit, bitterness, and the like, and we deceive ourselves if we pretend that God's goodness will automatically overcome the sinfulness within us.

On the contrary, we are free beings who are able to choose to serve evil rather than God. We may feel we are with Christ by virtue of our baptism or because of His love for us, but that is not the case as long as we have not surrendered our wills to the will of the Heavenly Father and have not invited Christ into our hearts. Be sure you comprehend the difference.

from The Orthodox Messenger, June-July 1993

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