OBTAINING PERFECT LOVE
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
From the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 22, starting with verse 35 through 40. "Then one of them, a lawyer asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Both of the great commandments that Jesus Christ identified referred to love. From this we can gather that to God love comes first, and if love comes first in our lives then following the commandments of God are observed with ease. For if we love we will not kill. If we love, we will not steal, or bear false witness against our neighbors. If we love we will respect our brothers and sisters in Christ to a degree that offending them by breaking a commandment of God goes against our very nature. If we have the nature of love, we have the nature of God!
From the Gospel according to St. Matthew Chapter 5:22 "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever says to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever says, "you fool", shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you; Leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
In keeping with the commandments of love that Jesus Christ identified as the most important, in this scripture reading, Jesus forbids sinful anger against your brother. He also indicates that if you have a quarrel with one of your brothers, you should first settle it peacefully before leaving your offering at the altar.
To fully understand this, we must define who our brother is. Jesus was not speaking of only your siblings, but of all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, all of mankind! To separate an individual, or group of people, and think of them as unworthy of being your brethren is to judge them. Jesus Christ forbids us to judge our fellow man. If we judge others, according to the Scriptures, we will be judged by the same judgment. Therefore, if it is a human being, they are to be considered your fellow man.
Since we are all building blocks of the Body of Christ, He knows that if we are angry with one of our brothers and sisters in Christ, this will prevent us from fulfilling the greatest of the commandments, which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart.
Jesus Christ knows our every thought and intention. He wants us to approach Him free from hate, bitterness, and grudges. This is why he wants us to bring our gift (a sacrifice of praise) and place it at His altar with a heart free from malice and hate.
From the Gospel according to St. Mark Chapter 11:25 "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone: forgive them, that your Father in Heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses."
To withhold assistance from someone because they are not of your faith is an act of judgment. To judge someone unworthy of the Kingdom of God because you feel that they do not believe correctly is an act of judgment. To consider someone unworthy of your forgiveness is an act of judgment. When we help others, we should not question their faith, or try to determine if they are worthy of our assistance, to do so is an act of judgment.
Our Lord wants us to love all fellow human beings, regardless of race, religion, or any other distinction or classification. It does not matter if we personally think that they are horrible sinners or not! It is simply not our job to make that determination, that is God’s job, and His alone! We can easily see the outward sins of a person, but what we cannot see is the remorse that this person may have in their heart for their sins.
If the Lord Jesus Christ does not presume to judge a person until they have died, then what gives us the right to judge them while they are yet living? While there is life and breath in a human being, there is hope in Christ. Salvation is equally available to every human being, and it is the true desire of Jesus Christ that all of mankind obtains salvation through Him! He has given us the key, and that key is love. Firstly, love of God, then love of all mankind.
If we are wronged by our fellow man, we should forgive, and also forget the transgression. Not only should we forgive them, but we should also pray for them! We must strive with every ounce of our being to not let it affect our feelings for that person. To achieve this is to achieve "perfect love", which is what Jesus Christ wants us to possess. To love someone with such a "perfect love" that you pray for their forgiveness when they do you wrong, will free your soul from condemnation when you stand before the dread judgment seat of Christ.
By covering the offenses of your brothers and sisters with love and forgiveness, you are effectively covering your own sins with the Blood of Jesus Christ, by keeping His commandments, especially the commandment of love. And as He promised in the Scriptures, if you forgive your brothers and sisters in Christ of their trespasses, then your trespasses will be forgiven.
We have a great example of "perfect love" from Jesus Christ. When Jesus was being crucified He prayed that His Father in Heaven would forgive those who were crucifying Him, because they did not know what they were doing! If Jesus Christ can pray for people that are nailing Him to a cross, certainly we can find it in our hearts to pray for someone that simply made us angry.
Another example of "perfect love" would be St. Seraphim of Sarov. Robbers beat St. Seraphim into unconsciousness. This brutal attack left St. Seraphim unable to straighten his body; he walked stooped over with a cane for the rest of his life. When St. Seraphim regained consciousness he not only forgave his attackers, but actually defended them against prosecution in court. One of the robbers was so moved by the Saint’s "perfect love" that he became a Christian and changed his evil ways.
In the example of St. Seraphim, his "perfect love" for even someone that trespassed against him greatly brought one more person to repentance and back to the Lord. Just as everything is voluntary pertaining to our salvation; both of the robbers received the same forgiveness and love from St. Seraphim; however, one failed to be moved to salvation through the Saint’s kindness.
This same thing happened when Jesus Christ was on the cross. One of the thieves asked Jesus to remember him in His Kingdom, the other chose to mock the Lord. They both had equal access to the Savior; one chose to ask for forgiveness, the other did not. One chose the path of love, the other chose the path of hate. Love leads to God and the kingdom of Heaven. Hate only serves to destroy our lives and places our souls in peril.
We have a choice every time a brother or sister in Christ wrongs us. We can choose the path of "perfect love" and forgive them and pray for them; or we can choose to hold a grudge, and not forgive the person. The results of such actions are clear: if we choose to forgive and take the path of "perfect love" we free ourselves from the chains that hold us earthbound during prayer. We will be able to ascend in pure prayer to Jesus Christ and our sins will also be forgiven.
If we choose to not forgive, when we stand before Jesus Christ asking for forgiveness of our sins, we will be like the servant that pleaded with his master to forgive him a large debt. When the master forgave the debt, the same man went out and had a fellow servant cast into prison for a debt he owed to him. The master, when he found out about the actions of the servant that he had forgiven a large debt, was angry and sent the unforgiving servant to prison until the debt was fully paid. If we choose anger, grudges, and hate, we are like the foolish servant that would not forgive his brother.
In order to reach "perfect love", we must constantly examine our conscience for any grudges we are holding against anyone. Do we hate anyone, or have we not forgiven everyone that we feel has done us wrong? Take each case you can remember, then sincerely pray for that person. Ask God to forgive them for what they have done to you, then ask God to forgive you for any part you had in the confrontation. This prayer must be heartfelt, and you must sincerely want this person to be forgiven. The emotion you feel during and after the prayer will let you know if you have been successful. If you feel moved to tears, and then feel a rush of love enter your heart, chances are your prayer was truly sincere and one of the large chains holding your heart down has been lifted from you.
Once you lift all the chains, you will be amazed how free you feel. You will be amazed at the release from stress. You will be able to deal with others with more patience and love because you will certainly not want to fall back into the same pit you have just pulled yourself from. Once you have forgiven all of your previous debtors, you must work hard to avoid situations that will start the process all over again! Remind yourself that endangering your salvation over a grudge is foolish when you have the ability to change the situation.
Hate, grudges, intolerance, and bickering are poison to the soul of a Christian. Jesus Christ has given us many examples in the Scriptures, which clearly tell us that He does not want us to behave this way. It is His desire that we all find our salvation. The best way for us to find our salvation is to help others find theirs through "perfect love", forgiveness, and spiritual peace.
Mother Teresa said this: "Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your own house, let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus;
But wherewith for sacred sign.
Love shall be our token;
Love be yours and love be mine;
Love for plea and gift and sign.
By Christina Rossetti
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior we come before You today asking that You will forgive us from every stain of sin that has fallen upon our wedding garment. We know full well that we have all fallen short of Your Glory, and as the Prodigal Son returned to his father, we also return to You, our Heavenly Father asking You to forgive us, and receive us back into fellowship with You.
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to search our hearts thoroughly and to repent our sins with humble and contrite hearts. Grant us a full pardon from our iniquities, and wash our wedding garment to full brightness through the power of Your precious Life-giving Cross, and through Your Holy Body and Blood as we Commune with You through the Last Supper; the Marriage Feast of the Lamb of God.
Send the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the truth in our hearts. Provide us with guardian angels that we may be defended from all attacks of the evil one. Make our hearts thankful for the many blessings that You have granted us. Embrace us with the gift of Your Holy Love, so that we may dwell in spiritual peace, and become children of the Light that emanates from You the Sun of Righteousness.
Grant that we may love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so that we may be children of our Father in Heaven. Purge from us every grudge that we carry against others; and help us to forgive others so that we may be forgiven by You. When it is our time to leave this world, receive our souls safe and sound as the father received his prodigal son. Grant that we may celebrate in Heaven with You on that day the great victory of our Salvation through faith in You, the Only-Begotten Son of God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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