“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Such a familiar passage from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinth Church. And often misinterpreted because of a shallow definition of the word “love.”
Yesterday the Church celebrated a dual feast day. It was the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles and the Sunday of All Saints. In light of that glorious company of the Friends of Christ, I ask us today to consider what is the opposite of love?
You may be surprised to hear that the opposite of love is not hate. At least hate presupposes a kind of devotion to an object in the extreme negative. No, hate isn’t the opposite of Love. Indifference is the opposite of love. Whereas love always desires to be near the object of love, indifference could care less. Indifference simply gives no attention, no devotion, no matter. Indifference doesn’t care.
To many who claim to be believers, the reality of their lives is as functional atheists. While they claim to believe, their belief doesn’t affect their behavior, their choices, or their priorities. Hence, they live for all practical purposes as functional atheists.
But the Friends of Christ display for us the icon of true love. They have three characteristics that always overpower the temptation to functional atheism. Those three characteristics always produce a practical Orthodoxy that allows for a daily practice of the “faith once, for all, delivered to the saints.”
First, the Friends of Christ REMEMBER God. Their daily lives are focused and caught up in the daily rhythm of having God always in the front of their thoughts and actions. They are diligent in scattering about their daily lives remembrances of God in their lives; from the prayer rope on their wrists, to the icons in their home, to the daily reading of scripture, the Friends of Christ always have God in their memory. This keeps the life of God before their eyes and informs their choices.
Second, the Friends of Christ LOVE God. The old 1950’s song said “to know, know, know him, is to to love, love love him…” It is simply impossible to know God and not love Him. All too often we merely know “about” God without ever seeking to truly “know” Him in His Persons. But the Friends of Christ experience a genuine affection for and devotion to God in that they understand a fundamental truth: It is in an authentic relationship with God that true love is possible. Mere lip service to belief never produces such love and devotion. To avoid functional atheism, we have to love God.
Finally, the Friends of Christ SERVE God. Functional atheism cannot survive in the life of a believer who puts his energies, time, even fiances to work for God. The believer who daily seeks ways to serve God in their choices, their actions, their words, and their priorities will find it a natural thing to both remember and love God. There is something about actually doing the faith that ignites strength and faithfulness in the heart of the believer.
Today, let us examine our love. Let us drive from our hearts any hint of “functional atheism” and let us remember that “love never ends.”