“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with love” (1 Cor. 16, 13-14).
In the Church of Corinth, founded by the apostolic labors of the holy Apostle Paul during his second journey (circa 53 A.D.), discord and division occurred. After Apostle Paul had departed from the city of Corinth, various false teachers appeared there, who began to belittle the dignity of the apostles, in order to elevate themselves in the eyes of the newly-converted Corinthian Christians. In this they were so successful that local Christians became divided into parties, each choosing a different teacher for itself.
When he learned of this, Apostle Paul became greatly saddened, knowing that, according to the Gospel, no house or church divided would be able to stand. Consequently, the same fate could befall the Corinthian Church. In order to summon all the faithful to unity, Apostle Paul wrote them an epistle explaining the principles of the Christian faith and a Christian outlook in general.
What once took place among the Christians of Corinth, is currently taking place among us. Due to extraordinary discoveries in the fields of technology and science, and the development of the arts and commerce, etc., the present age can easily be called an age of progress; however, in terms of spirituality, religiousness, church attendance and morality, – it leaves much to be desired! This is confirmed in modern society by a universal and passionate pursuit of material gain.
In modern man belief in the Lord God has become faint, if not completely dissipated. This is the cause of all our dissensions. Such weakening of faith permeates our consciousness. Our consciousness then becomes desensitized to our spiritual needs which leads to spiritual paralysis. This, in turn, leads to our lack of understanding – and lack of a desire to understand – the needs of others.
Christianity is founded upon these three: faith, hope and love. As long as time continues to exist for us, faith and hope must also exist, but when time ceases, i.e. after we pass from temporal life into eternal life, especially after the Last Judgment, faith and hope will cease to exist, and only love will remain.
The Orthodox Church teaches us that love is eternal, while faith and hope are temporal. Thus the apostolic advice: let all your things be done with love – remains forever appropriate.
Love unites everything, secures everything. Love is the sum total of all virtues. And it is love that is so sadly lacking in our times.
Love, like any other Christian virtue, does not vaunt itself, does not openly flaunt itself in the street, as does vice. Love conceals itself from the gaze of others and is recognized only by the fruit it bears.
There are occasions, naturally, when love proclaims itself firmly and courageously, whenever the need arises. Love is often revealed in patience towards others, in tolerance towards their frailties; love bears the burden of others. Sometimes misconceptions and prejudices serve to impede the revelation of love between people Some people have a soft heart, but their mind is infected with all kinds of prejudices: the heart wants to do good, but the mind rejects it. For example: the heart wants to forgive an offense, while the mind whispers: will I not seem to be a weakling? Will it not go against my honor if I do not take revenge against my offender? Or another example: the heart wants to help someone in need, while the mind warns that one should not lose one’s dignity in the eyes of society.
And, finally, the cause of such rare occurrence of love between people is egoism. Excessive love of oneself suppresses love of others. There are many examples of egoism destroying a person, a family, even entire nations. Look at what is left of the proud Romans. Great cities have vanished from the face of the earth, and even archaeologists cannot find them.
Love cannot be deceived. It has to issue from within and cannot be hypocritical. Love subsequently cemented the Corinthian Church, which flourished in the history of Christianity. Love will help us too – each one of us individually, and our parishes, and our Church.
Let us learn to act in all instances with love, and thus we will fulfill the law of Christ.
Protopriest Igor Hrebinka