Serbian Orthodox Church
Reflection On Christian Love
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Proverbs 10:12 - Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.
Love is fundamental to the Christian life. Love is to permeate all a Christian does.
Love is to be the rule of faith for the Christian. Hatred has no place in the heart,
mind or actions of a believer.
The only place proper for hatred is hatred of sin. The believer needs to battle sin.
The believer needs to seek peace. The believer needs to find a state of life where
is dominant and sinfulness is to be eschewed.
Hatred expressed verbally or physically is disconcerting. Hatred expressed physically or
verbally can produce similar reactions. Hatred need ameliorated with love.
The dangers of hatred require assessment. The reactions to hatred should be measured.
Strong reactions to hatred are required from time to time. Reactions to hatred, are not
to be motivated by hatred.
Measured reactions to hatred will take into consideration the necessities of achieving
peace without compromising principles. Believers cannot acquiesce to hatred expressed
physically or orally.
Strength from Christ is necessary to deal with hatred. Strength from Christ is necessary
to exercise restraint. Strength from Christ is required to maintain perspective and composure
in the face of adversaries.
Christian love will manifest forgiveness. Christian love will demonstrate forgiveness
toward the repentant sinner. Christian love will embrace the returning prodigal son or daughter.
Christian love will produce support for the victims of discrimination. Christian love will
result in encouraging presence in times of distress. Christian love will provide a voice for
Hatred runs counter to the life in Christ. Hatred runs counter to the Christ in the
Gospels. Hatred does not produce love. Hatred does not produce peace.
Cultivating love in the way of life requires patience. Cultivating love in the way of
life requires love of God. Cultivating love is easier in an atmosphere of love.
Not all growing up in an atmosphere of hatred learn to hate...but many do.
Not all growing up in an atmosphere of love reflect love in the way they live.
Love is a mystery associated with God. Love is a mystery best understood with faithfulness
to God. Love is a mystery best seen in the perspective of the Crucified and Risen Christ.
Love is to be cherished, cultivated and shared.
Song of Solomon 8:6 - Set me a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;
for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave;
its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.
Seal the heart with the love of God. Seal the heart from attacks of sins. Seal the heart
with joy. Value the heart as home for Christ. Value the heart as part of the temple of the
Guard the relationship with God and do all required to maintain the relationship pleasing
to God. Guard the relationship with God and maintain the discipline necessary.
Stay away from the pathway to death. Stay firm on the path to eternal life.
The Crucified and Risen Christ demonstrated the power of love over death. The Crucified
and Risen Christ can quench the flames the burn the soul.
The fire of Christ will warm the heart. The fire of Christ will ignite and provide the
necessary speech. The fire of Christ will blaze the trail to the Kingdom.
Doubters will question the wisdom of following Christ. Doubters will question the wisdom
of believing in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Doubters will be jealous of those loving
Christ and finding fulfillment in Christ.
Doubters will try to derail believers. Doubters will try to sink believers. Doubters will
try to persuade believers.
If an observers views an icon of The Ladder of Divine Ascent, the visual image of failure
is apparent. Reaching the Kingdom requires faithfulness throughout until the last breath.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to
life, and there are few who find it." (Mt. 7:14).
Each person makes the choices affecting his or her direction in life.
Each person determines by the choices made whether the ultimate destination is the Kingdom
of God or eternal damnation.The way each person exercises choices daily determines the ultimate
outcome of his or her life.
Abuse of the relationship with God is not healthy. Abuse of the relationship with God is
irresponsible. Abuse of the relationship with God fails to show appreciation to God.
The grave could not represent victory over Christ. Hatred is not victorious over love.
Even where physical death results, love for Christ triumphs by the witness of the Christian
The martyrs of Kosovo show convincingly that love for Christ in times of adversity is
not forgotten or hidden but revealed for believers to see. Even after centuries have elapsed
martyrs having died for Christ witness to succeeding generations.
Hold to love. Eschew hatred. Cling to God and love God.
Jeremiah 31:3 - The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:" Yes, I have loved
you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you."
In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed belief is confessed in the Holy Spirit Who spoke
by the prophets. In the Gospel account of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man, Abraham told
the tormented rich man that if his brothers did not "hear Moses and the prophets, neither
will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." (Lk. 16:19-31)
Value exists in reading the Holy Prophets. Value exists in becoming familiar with the
lives and actions of the Holy Prophets. Too often in contemporary times individuals direct
their attention to activities, readings and viewings that pale in comparison to the lives
and works of the Holy Prophets.
The Holy Orthodox Church draws from the Holy Prophets for use in the liturgical life of
the Church. Looking to the Holy Prophets gives perspective to God in history.
Somehow believers need to look to the past, look to the present and look to the future.
Believers need to consider the "now" and the appropriate Christian response to the "now."
It helps to remember that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever."
(Heb. 13:8). It helps to keep in mind the question Jesus Christ asked
His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt. 16:13-15)
It is important to remember the Holy Apostle Peter's response to Jesus' question.
The Holy Apostle Peter said: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Do our lives reflect we were baptized into the life in Christ the Son of the living God?
Do our lives reflect the profession of faith, The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed?
The love of Christ was manifested on the Cross. The love of God has been manifested
throughout the centuries. The love of God is everywhere for those having eyes to see and
ears to hear.
Courage is required to be living in times of violence. Courage is required to be kind
when violence and aggressiveness are advocated. Courage is required to maintain civility
when civility runs counter to the popular trend.
Reading the lives of the Holy Prophets connects believers with centuries past.
Reading the lives of the Holy Prophets enables believers to contemplate God.
Reading the Holy Prophets enables believers to transport their minds and hearts
to a much earlier period of life.
Learning about God is continuous. Ideally, the individual grows and maintains a
willingness to listen and to grow. Keeping the focus on God and learning about God is
not easy. Learning about God and loving God is necessary.
John 13:35 - By this they will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one
Followers of Jesus Christ are expected to have love for one another. Love for another
is evidence of being a follower of Christ. Having love for one another on a continuous basis
and under various circumstances is part of the challenge of being a Christian.
To achieve and maintain love for one another requires continuous love for and unity with
Jesus Christ. Only in Christ, learning from Christ, turning to Christ in prayer and for
nourishment through His Precious Body and Blood can love for one another be established
Holy Confession and Holy Communion provide the means by which believers can maintain
balance, perspective and relationships consistent with the way Christ would have
relationships to be.
The standards set by Christ are the highest of standards. The standards set by Christ
are considered achievable. The standards set by Christ require adherence to the way of Christ.
Critics will say it is not possible to love one another. Critics will say the expectation
to love one another is beyond reach. Critics will say circumstances will arise that will cast
love aside and replace love with feelings other than love.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who
believes." (Mk. 9:23). If we want to call ourselves followers of Christ,
we must do our best to love one another.
To do less than our best is deceptive and dishonorable. Bearing the name Christian carries
with it the responsibility to do what is expected by Christ. The purity of belief in Christ is
measured by the love shown toward others in the name of Christ.
Love for Christ is made visible in love for others. The degree to which one loves Christ
will be revealed in the love shown toward others. Christ is identified with the least of the
brethren (Mt. 25:31-46)
Believers must confront feelings impeding love for others and with the help of Christ
address the feelings. Enemies of Christ can take great satisfaction when Christians fail
to show love for one another.
Parish churches are healthier when the love for one another is dominant. Families are
healthier when love for one another is dominant. Work environments are healthier when love
for one another is dominant.
A person loving others genuinely in the name of Christ makes a difference. True love in
the name of Christ is respected. True love in the name of Christ become obvious over time.
Love for one another comes as the believer loves Christ and grows in Christ.
Christian love for others comes when pride and resentment are cast aside.
John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his
Christian love is measured by our willingness to help and sacrifice for our friends.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for us. The Holy Apostle Paul told the Romans:
"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)
Do we show our love for Christ by sacrificing to live in ways pleasing to Him? Do we
show our love for Christ by reading about His life in the Holy Scriptures? Do we show our
love for Christ by being kind to the least of the brethren?
Do we show our love for our family members by sacrificing for them? Do we show our love
for our spouses by sacrificing for them? Do we show our love for our friends by sacrificing
Do we consider ourselves first and others second? Do we place our needs above the
needs of our loved ones? Do things always have to be the way we want them to be without
consideration of the feelings and thoughts of others near and dear to us?
Do we give serious consideration to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt. 22:39) Do our lives
reflect a consistent love of neighbors? Do our lives reflect a consist love for friends.
In central Pennsylvania there is a young man who had a friend in need of a kidney.
The young man went to medical authorities to see if his kidney would match. It did.
He donated his kidney that his friend might live. This is Christian love. There are
other examples of Christian love through the centuries.
Believers reading the lives of the saints will see the sacrifices made through the
centuries for the love of Christ and the love of others. Caring for another family member
or friend seriously injured or ill can be an expression of love and Christian sacrifice.
Parents sacrificing for the benefit of their children can be an expression of Christian
love. Faithful parishioners sacrificing personal goals and well-being for the love of Christ
and Christ's Church express Christian love.
Love in the way of Christ is not to call attention to the self. Love in the way of Christ
is to benefit the other in a way the other person experiences wholeness given only by Christ.
Christian love expressed sets in motion a chain reaction. Christian love expressed counters
the culture of selfishness and hate. Christian love expressed shows there is a better way to
live, a better alternative to violence, hate and neglect. Christian love expressed reveals
the shortcomings of selfishness.
Christian love expressed always has a lasting effect.
Roman 8:35 - Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Security exists in knowing God is always present. Security exists in knowing where there
is no where else to turn, there is God. Security exists when a person is feeling lonesome or
alone, the person can turn to God in prayer.
The most isolated person in a super-maximum prison cell, the most bizarre psychiatric
patient in lock-up, the prisoner of war in a foreign country can draw strength, comfort
and support from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The third Psalm is a reminder of the courage God gives to the believer. The Psalmist
states: "I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of
ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around."
Individuals witnessing for Christ at times will be persecuted. Martyrs for Christ face
adversaries with firmness of conviction. Martyrs for Christ suffer knowing that the Lord
Jesus Christ endured suffering.
In the face of death, in the face of persecution, in the face of extreme adversity,
the love of Christ is the necessary nourishment and encouragement to endure.
When a person is ready to give up due to hardship, when a person is ready to give in
to pressure, when a person is willing to yield to bodily or mental tiredness, knowing that
unity with Christ exists in the effort is sufficient inspiration to continue.
The Holy Apostle Paul told the Ephesians: "Let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
The love of Christ is sufficient to sustain a person under the most difficult of
circumstances. The love of Christ is sufficient to nourish and satisfy the hungriest of souls.
The love of Christ cannot be quantified. The love of Christ is available to each person
of each century. The love of Christ is not limited to individuals based upon ethnicity or
gender or of a certain age.
The love of Christ is inexhaustible. Centuries have passed and individuals continue to
fully experience the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Centuries have passed and the love of
Christ remains fully available.
The love of Christ cannot be bought for dollars and cents. The love of Christ cannot be
sold by enterprising individuals seeking to deceive and mislead the susceptible.
The love of Christ does not exist only in a single or very limited number of geographic
locations. The love of Christ is best taught and experienced within the context of God's
The love of Christ exceeds human capacity to fully appreciate.
2 Corinthians 6:4-6 - But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much
patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults,
in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by
kindness, by the Holy Spirit; by sincere love.
Being a Christian involves sharing the witness for Christ. Even the person living in a
remote area will have his or her Christian faith shared when others learn of it. Hermit,
ascetics living in the desert or in the mountains, far from civilization are known to God.
Sincere love is a criteria associated with Christian witness. Sincere love passes the
tests of authenticity. Sincere love is not easily discouraged or repudiated.
Sincere love is set apart from interest by the casual believer. Sincere love is set apart
from the attention of the devious. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "I am the good shepherd; and I
know My sheep, and am known by My own."
As the the good shepherd is distinguished from the hireling, so is authentic Christian
love distinguished from relationships with others of lesser quality.
Financial value cannot be place on sincere love. The full effects of sincere love cannot
be measured. Human life is enriched by the experience of sincere love.
Human potential is fueled by sincere love.
The Holy Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians(2Cor6:4-6) links sincere love with
other dynamics of Christian life. Fasting, tumults, labors, purity, knowledge, longsuffering
and more are part of the Christian life.
The history of the Holy Orthodox Church contains sufficient material to satisfy the most
inquisitive scholar. The history of the Holy Orthodox Church contains sufficient demonstrations
of sincere love to busy a scholar for many years.
Formulating questions about sincere love is a good way to begin to seek answers. Turning
to the lives of the saints, turning to the Holy Scriptures, turning to biographies of Orthodox
Christians through the centuries will provide evidence and leads to learning more about
Examining holy icons and frescoes of the Church inspires contemplation of sincere love.
Abraham's love of God was obvious when he was ready to sacrifice Isaac. The first martyr
Stephen's love of God was evidence that he was willing to endure stoning while witnessing
for Christ. (Gen. 22:1-18, Acts 7:1-60).
When the soul is hungry for love, the love of Christ satisfies the hunger. When the soul
is hungry for Christ, the love for Christ enables the person experience Christ in diverse
The love of Christ defies complete description. The love of Christ is best understood
in direct experience. Open the heart and mind to Christ's love.
Ephesians 3:14-19 - For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according
to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in
love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth
and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you may be filled with
all the fullness of God.
Christians ideally want to grow. Christians baptized at birth ideally grow into
and live many years. The Psalmist gives the average life expectancy to be seventy to eighty
years. (Ps. 89/90:10)
Just as the person wants the body and mind to mature and develop, ideally, the person
wants the heart and soul to mature and develop. The person ideally wants to mature in Christ
as well as in the world.
While one cannot fully estimate or comprehend the fullness in Christ, one can learn from
the lives of the saints and believers having gone before. One can come to know a certain
fullness is experienced. One can come to know a certain radiance of soul is experienced.
One can come to know a certain peace is experienced. One can come to know a certain joy is
experienced. One can come to know a certain confidence in Christ is experienced.
The Holy Apostle Paul told the Galatians: "The fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, self-control, Against such there is no law."
Christians must be familiar with references to the Spirit. Christians must think seriously
about the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Christians must think about the Holy Spirit on a
Prayers to the Holy Spirit will yield results. Believers need to think about the
requirements to experience the fruits of the Spirit. Believers need to think about whether
or not the fruits of the Spirit are present in their lives. Believers need to think about
what they are and are not doing to experience the fruits of the Spirit.
Fortunately, each moment is an opportunity to repent. Fortunately each moment is an
opportunity to seek the Kingdom of God. Fortunately each moment is an opportunity to take steps
to experience the love of God.
While a person has faculty of mind, while a person has strength and desire to be united
with Christ, unity with Christ is possible. Experiencing Christ's love is possible.
The more time passes, the less time a person has to fully experience the love of Christ.
The more time passes the more intense the need becomes for the required steps to be taken to
repent and seek the love of Christ.
The love of Christ is not beyond the reach of the believer.
I Timothy 6:11 - But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
How many contemporary individuals pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience
and gentleness? How many individuals actively seek righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
patience and gentleness?
In contemporary society where greed seems to have no limits and where the lack of civility
is decried, what percentage of individuals truly seek the qualities the Holy Apostle Paul
mentions in his Epistle?
What happens to the person choosing to follow the words of the Holy Apostle? What is
required for the person seeking the qualities mentioned by Holy Apostle Paul to actually
What must a person give up in order to experience righteous, godliness, faith, love,
patience and gentleness? What time period is required? What is required to maintain the
What must a person flee? To where can he or she go? What should the person avoid?
Temptations, attractive alternatives, distractions, weariness can serve to bring a person down.
Consider the centuries since the creation of the world and then attempt to estimate the
percentage of people actually living in ways completely pleasing to God.
Examine contemporary society and reflect on the ways of life contrary to the teachings
of God. Examine contemporary society and reflect on what is necessary to bring change to a
family, a parish church, a community, a workplace to bring them into line with the teachings
In a given parish church, consider the degree of faithfulness to practices of the Church
existing among the parishioners. How many parishioners fast throughout the year as prescribed
by the Church? How many parishioners make an effort to attend the Divine services beyond
Sundays? How many parishioners go to Holy Confession and Communion on a regular basis and see
these Mysteries as ways to unite with and experience Christ?
How many individuals in a given parish pray on a daily basis and in a significant way?
What percentage of baptized Orthodox Christians remain Orthodox until departure from this life?
What is it that causes a person to heed the words of the Holy Apostle Paul? When
individuals grow up in similar environments, why does one person choose to follow Christ
in the way of the Holy Apostle Paul and a brother or sister, friend or neighbor or relative
take a radically different course?
What part does intercessory prayer play in altering the course an individual is taking?
What part does dramatic changes in life experiences play in altering the course an individual
I John 4:8 - He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
It is the Christian's joy to know God. It is the Christian's joy to experience the Risen
Christ. It is the Christian's joy to celebrate the life of Christ. It is the Christian's
nourishment to partake of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ.
Within the Holy Orthodox Church, one learns of and experiences God in the Divine services
of the Church. One hears the teachings from the Holy Gospel. One learns of the teaching of
Christ from the frescoes and iconography of the Church.
The writings of the Holy Fathers, the wisdom of the saints of the Church, the sacrifice
of the Holy Martyrs are lessons in love for God that transcend time.
Contemporary Christians as Christians in centuries past have the responsibility to love
God and love neighbor. St. John said: "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother,
he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom
he has not seen?" (I Jn. 4:20)
To love in ways God wants us to love requires serious thought. To love in ways God wants
us to love requires a hunger for the love God would have us to have.
To know God and to love is to cast aside what is not pleasing to God. To experience God
and the love God would have us to have, requires an interest and an openness to God.
Opening the heart to God, opening the mind to God, opening one;s life to God entails a
certain element of risk. It means giving up one way of life for another. It means giving up
certain things or ways previously valued for a better way.
Committing one's life to knowing God, loving God and sharing the love of God involves
trusting God and the way of God. The love of God is experienced in partaking the Precious
Body and Blood of Christ.
The love of God is experienced in the forgiveness at Holy Confession. The love of God
is experienced in healings as a result of prayer. The love of God is experienced in the care
children receive from loving parents.
The love of God is experienced when friends help in time of need. The love of God is
experienced when a person sacrifices his or her life on the battlefield to save the life
The love of God is experienced when a believer is martyred for Christ The love of God
is shared when a person works for the Church for the pure purposes of God.
The love of God is to be treasured, shared and ever appreciated.
St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.
Prepared for Adult Class. September 15/28, 2006. Eve of St. Cyprian of Serbia..
Afterfeast of Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross.
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