Monday, May 18, 2009

How should we love God? (8) Fear of God leads to His love - Love for people and for good leads to love for God

How should we love God? (8)
Fear of God leads to His love
Love for people and for good leads to love for God
Pope Shenouda III
Translated by Dr. Wedad Abbas

Fear is the beginning of the way to love.

It is written in the Proverbs and in the Psalms: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov 9: 10; Ps 111: 10) What then is the relation between fear and love? St. John the Apostle says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear." (1 Jn 4: 18)

When you start with fear, you will reach obedience to God and compliance with His commandments.

At least you will fear the punishment, the awful Day of Judgment, and the eternal suffering. When you obey the commandments, you will find pleasure and benefit for your life. See how David the Prophet found such pleasure and sang praises for God's commandments and law: "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes ……… more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Ps 19: 7- 10) And also, "Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction," "I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart … I delight in Your law," "I have seen the consummation of all perfection, but Your commandment is exceedingly broad. Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps 119: 49, 50, 69, 96)

If we love God's commandments, we will love good; and if we love good, we will love God.

We may in the beginning force ourselves to love good, but when we continue practicing it, we will do it voluntarily and wholeheartedly. Then we will not be able to sin (1 Jn 3: 9).

What avails is to love good, not merely to do good.

God does not look to the good which we do against our will, nor which we do for the sake of praise, glory, or admiration from the others; for in such a case our love will be for the praise or the admiration, not for good. Moreover we will have received here on the earth the reward for what we have done (Mt 6: 2, 5). True good is that which we do out of love for good itself, for those who receive it, and for God Himself.

If we love virtue and good, we will automatically love God, because God is the Ultimate Good.

A righteous person can easily love God, but a sinner who loves sin cannot love God beside it, because there is no communion between light and darkness, nor fellowship between righteousness and lawlessness (2 Cor 6: 14). The Existentialists for instance, thinking that God hinders their lusts and desires, deny His existence because He calls for good and punishes their lusts.

If you love righteousness and good, you will find in God your example, so you will love Him.

If you love good, you will rise above struggling against sin. The words, "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal 5: 17) apply only to the beginners who struggle against the flesh which does not submit to the spirit. But the pure and righteous flesh which loves good does not lust against the spirit. The righteous spirit in such a person leads his body, and the Spirit of God leads his human spirit (Rom 8: 14).

If you do love good, your body will be holy and will be an actual temple of God's Spirit who dwells in it (1 Cor 3: 16).

You will have communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13: 14) who will pour God's love in your heart, as the Apostle says in (Rom 5: 5).

Keep then the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in you and the communion of the Holy Spirit with you in work and thinking. In this way you will keep God's love in your heart and will not grieve His Spirit with any act against His will. You will continue in God's love.

Who loves good and loves God will not be tired of struggling. His struggling will be pleasant, leading to growth in good and in God's love.

Such a person will not have to struggle against himself to force himself to lead a virtuous life, because he loves virtue. He practices virtue with pleasure and longing; he loves prayer and loves God who sent the words of prayer to satisfy him; and he loves the church with all its Holy Sacraments, and finds in them spiritual satisfaction that leads to his growth. He does everything without being forced. The reason is that he has attained the Lord's rest, the endless Sabbath which leads to good step by step.

Good to him is wonderfully connected with God's love.

Good leads him to God's love and the opposite. Each of them will be a cause and a consequence to the other. Who loves good will see God's commandment easy, not heavy as the Apostle says (1 Jn 5: 3), because he loves it.

Who loves the Lord and loves righteousness has actually risen above the requirements of the law, having attained love.

He will do good by his own good nature, without need for a commandment. He is no more in need for a commandment calling him to do good. He has returned to the image of God, and good has become part of his nature. He does not need to exert any effort to do good, for it has become like a breath to his life. He will not feel that he is doing something excessive or amazing, nor will boast of it as something extraordinary.

He loves God, and loves the good which he longs for, and God becomes his whole desire and pleasure.

He finds in God the ideals lacking in the world. He forsakes the world and holds to the Lord, as David the Prophet says, "It is good for me to draw near to God." (Ps 73: 28) He feels happy because he has found God, has experienced Him and life with Him, and has experienced the pleasure of the spiritual life. Therefore he says with the Bride of the Song, "I held him and would not let him go." (Song 3: 4) Who loves good will love people and like to do good to them. People's love in turn will lead him to God's love, for the Apostle says, "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? (1 Jn 4: 20)

If you want to love God, start with love for people and serve them, respect them, and give yourself for them. Then you will find God's love has entered your heart automatically. Give love from all your heart to whoever needs love: to the children, the disabled, the elderly, the orphans, the needy, the poor, the handicapped, and those who have no one to remember them. Serve them all, and you will find that God's love has entered your heart strongly. You will lift your heart unto God that He may help you to serve them. Then you will give thanks to Him that He has given you what they need that you may give them.

You love them because they are His children and because He loves them and He helps you to love them. God's love in your heart will be connected with the love for people. If you love Him you will love them, and if you love them you will love Him.

The Lord Christ says that the first commandment is to love God, and the second is
Like it, to love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22: 39).

Ministry leads to God's love.

Ministry leads to God's love, and God's love sends you to minister to Him, provided that your ministry will not be a routine ministry or a mere activity, but rather ministry mixed with love. Its cause and its results should be love. You serve people because you love them, because God loves them, because you love His kingdom, and because you want them to enter this kingdom and to love God whom you love and who loves you. See what the Lord said about His disciples to the Father: "I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me be in them, and I in them." (Jn 17: 26)

What connects you further to God's love is the means of Grace.

God has provided us with various means that can help us love Him, such as prayer, reading of the Holy Scripture, church meetings, hymns, rituals, and holy sacraments, especially confession and communion, in addition to spiritual reading, meditations, visiting the holy sites, and spiritual guidance.

In order to attain God's love, you have to benefit from such means; otherwise you will fall in tepidity and your mind no more will be occupied with God. [See our book on "Spiritual Means"]

Among the means that may lead you to God's love is to think of your eternal life.

If man is aware of the vanity of the present world, and that it is passing away and the lust of it (1 Jn 2: 17), that all is vanity and grasping for the wind (Eccl 2: 17), and that man shall stand one day for judgment before the throne of the Just God who will reward each according to his works (Mt 16: 27), according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5: 10), then man's conscience will awaken. Man will get prepared for the meeting with God, will try to have a relationship with Him, will ask forgiveness for his sins, and will have such love for God that he may not be ashamed of meeting with Him in eternity.

That is why the holy church reminds us of the Judgment and the Second Coming in the Prayers of the Vespers, the Compline, and the Midnight.

To get ready for the meeting with God through repentance and regretting our sins and through God's fear that may lead us to His love, we ought to pray these Prayers of the Hours with the absolution of each Hour. They will certainly work within the heart.

So many are the saints who the remembrance of death and judgment made them more attached to God!

This is enough for now and will continue the following week, God willing.

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III Patriarch 117th of the See of Alexandria and Successor of St. Mark. Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He is the head of The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

WATANI International – 10 May 2009 – 2 Bashans 1725 (Coptic Calendar) – 15 Gamada al-Awwal (Arab Calendar) 1430 – Year 9 - Issue 430.
WATANI - 10 May 2009 - 2 Bashans 1725 (Coptic Calendar) - 1st Issue Year 51 - No. 2472 - 2nd Issue Year 9 No. 438


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