1 John 2:7-17
John begins by speaking of a new commandment. Jesus’ commandments were not a legal code, however, but rather life in Christ. Jesus taught that the two commandments, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might;” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” were the summarization of all of the commandments. Consider, if you love the Lord with all your heart, you would never blaspheme, not entertain blasphemous thoughts; you would never place anything before Him; nor would you ever conceive of looking at astrology books or statues of Buddha, etc. Similarly, if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, you would never cheat them, lie to them, covet what they have, murder, etc; neither would you neglect the poor neighbor seeking alms, allow the hungry to go hungry, allow the naked to remain naked and cold, ignore the prisoner, etc. Thus, this new commandment, this life in Christ, is the command to love, to love as Christ so loved the world.
Thus, John warns us that anyone who says that he walks in light (the light of Christ’s love) and yet hates his brother is lying, he is walking instead in darkness. Jesus warns us that if anyone comes to the altar to offer sacrifice and there be a disagreement between him and his brother, that person should leave immediately and seek to be reconciled first, and then he can return to offer the sacrifice. “Anyone who comes hating his brother, though he may think he is enlightened by the Lord, is still in darkness,” and thus to receive of the Holy Mysteries would be to receive in a manner unworthy. Remembering Jesus’ teaching that “if you have forgiven your brother, then your Father who is in Heaven will forgive you; if you have not forgiven your brother, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you.” This is a hard teaching to handle, but it’s very plainly stated; your ability to receive the mysteries of Christ and to offer the sacrifice of praise in a pure manner is directly proportionate to your ability to forgive others when they have wronged you; your very salvation is dependent on your ability to forgive. John ends this passage with a very stern warning against loving the things of this world. The world, after the fall, is no longer oriented towards God, but rather is under the dominion of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus, the worlds goals and values are in opposition to God. Just look at the news on any given day, and you can see his ability to influence people. Look at the goals that our society has taught us to value. Success is measured by the treasures horded; celebrity status is given to those who most strongly stand opposed to the word of God; lifestyles considered abominable to God are most pridefully celebrated, while those who live by the commands of God are considered to be wicked. Great men and women of God are demonized and slandered, while the most perverse amongst men are idolized and worshiped.
See, the trick of the enemy has always been to take those things which God has given us for good and to slowly twist them to make them wicked. The lust of the flesh, the physical passions; the lust of the eyes, the soul’s passions; and ultimately, the possessions, powers and glory of life; the pride of life. The world teaches us to seek these things at all costs, to place our personal wants and desires before anything, regardless of who or what we have to trample on to obtain them. The world teaches us to look inside of ourselves for happiness; that reality is a majority opinion; that we can do anything that we want to do and nothing is wrong. The world teaches us that the secret to happiness is overcoming our conscience and feelings of guilt. In a morally relativistic society, there can be no right or wrong, because what’s right to you may not be right for someone else. And this is the exact reason that we must never love the things of the world. It creates a worldview that is so convoluted that it is literally impossible to attain to the truth, because the world teaches that the truth no longer even exists.
The Church, in her infinite wisdom, has given us the tools to help us to overcome these passions, to help us stay focused on the Truth. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, the Holy Scripture; these are the weapons that she has armed us with to fight against the spiritual corruption that the enemy seeks to inflict upon us. It is through these methods that we can strive into a life of virtue, forgiveness, love. Through them we learn to seek after God’s will, rather than seeking after our own; to place the needs of others ahead of our own desires; to truly love as Christ loved. And not only those who are with us, but those who stand directly against us. Remembering that even as the nails were being placed through His flesh, He prayed for the very people who were crucifying Him.
My brethern, let us never neglect these tools. Let us stand in prayer, for our fellow Christian as well as the staunchest atheist. Let us feed and clothe and care for all, regardless of whether they will attend our Church after. Let us fast as the Church commands, to free ourselves from our enslavement to the flesh. Let us study the Holy Scripture and allow the words of our Lord to change our hearts. Let us see the icon of Christ in the face of each and every person that we see and find in our hearts undying love for them, regardless of who they are from the world’s perspective. Every person that we encounter is a fellow human being, created in the image of our Christ; thus however we treat them is how we are treating Him.
Christ is in our midst!