What do you think is the opposite of love? The easy answer is hate but that isn’t even close. Because hate takes attention and focus and (usually) preoccupation with the object of your hate.
And the truth is love takes the same. To love something or someone takes attention, focus, and even preoccupation with the object of your love. You remember the first time you “fell” in love (by the way, I really dislike that phrase “fell in love” as if it were beyond my control or some spell was put on me!) all you wanted to do was be around the person you loved. There has never been a big brother or big sister that doesn’t remember the aggravating little brother or sister that always wanted to follow them around. They loved their bigger sibling and they wanted to do everything they did.
No, the opposite of love isn’t hate. These two emotions are too similar to be opposites.
The opposite of love is indifference.
But there are consequences to this dismissive indifference, especially when this thoughtlessness has as its object our relationship to God.
Look at our Epistle lesson this morning in Romans 1:28-32; 2:1-9:
Brethren, since the ungodly did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works; to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek.
What is true of a society that forgets God is also true of a person who forgets God Every time you are forgetful of God in your life, you head toward darkness and self-centered living. So, the remedy of this sad and dangerous pattern of behavior is to do those things that help you remember God.
Notice Paul says “God gave them up to a base mind…” (Romans 1:28) God isn’t interested in robots or slaves. He calls us not merely to obey Him or just fear Him. No, He invites us to a much deeper and a much more involved choice of entering into a loving relationship with Him. And this is because He knows that all the other motivations of acknowledging God are always too weak to last a lifetime. Only love is strong enough to affect the really necessary transformation of my heart to a true and fitting companion for God forever.
And only the committed rehearsal on a regular basis of God’s “riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience” will lead you to the hard work of repentance to fight the tug of indifference toward the Spirit-Filled life of a faithful Christian.
Today, what are the disciplines in your life that allow you to remember God moment by moment? Is your life indifferent to God and His Church? Thankfully, you don’t have to depend on your imagination for these spiritual tools that lead to love. Centuries of wisdom, insight, and Spirit-inspired direction are immediately available to you right now through the wise pattern of worship and prayers in the Church all meant to make you Orthodox on Purpose!