Try to summarize the essence of Christian morality and the main commandment. Well, of course, this is a commandment about love for God and one’s neighbor. Christ said that, summarizing the whole law of God. This is strictly repeated by His disciple, Apostle John the Theologian: “If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John. 4, 20).
The temptation to present Christianity as something twee is great. There is love, only love, pink hearts all around, and no problems, and God, of course, loves everyone and forgives everyone in advance.
But if everything was so simple, Christ would not have spoken of the broad path to damnation and the narrow path to eternal life.
A Christian should not just love his neighbor. He should love him, even seeing his weaknesses and misconduct. Moreover: it is precisely when he sees the sins of his neighbor that the Christian should love him.
The Venerable Maxim the Confessor, one of the most outstanding church writers of the 7th century, the author of the sublime and inspiring “Chapters of Love”, explains at the elementary level:
“A lover of God cannot but love every man as himself, although he does not favor the passions of those who have not yet been cleansed. Therefore, when he sees their conversion and correction, he rejoices in the immeasurable and indescribable joy.
A passionate soul filled with lustful and hateful thoughts is impure. He who sees in his heart a trace of hatred of a person for any fall is completely alien to love of God. For the love of God does not endure hatred of man. He who loves Me, says the Lord, will keep My commandments (John 14, 15). My commandment is this, that you love each other (John 15, 12). So he who does not love his neighbor does not keep the commandments. And he who does not keep the commandments cannot love the Lord either.
The man who can love everyone equally is blessed.”
– neighbor: EVERY person;
– commandment: to love a person, despite his passions;
– hatred of man is not justified by hatred of sin.
Everything seems to be obvious. But reality is harder and more difficult. “I hate not a man, but his sin!” – we often say this when denouncing a comrade, neighbor, Internet user, official, priest for greed, lust, drunkenness, cruelty, self-confidence, sacrilege. To check if there is a “trace of hatred for any fall” in this is quite difficult. But there are some signs.
A loving man, or at least striving to fulfill the commandment of love, consciously wants to correct the sinner. Not punishment, not retribution, but correction.
A murderer, a thief, a home abuser: all of them can refuse the crime and turn to virtue. Prudent robbers and Mary of Egypt are rare, but not fiction, and the Christian sees this as a hope for awakening in the worst sinner of something better.
This hope is a reflection of God’s glory, therefore it should not fade away. As He awaits the conversion and repentance of every person without pressure and manipulation, so if we love God, we dare to hope that our brother like Adam will raise his eyes to the Father.
Translated by Alyona Malafeeva