Over the past few Lord’s Days, during the month of June, I have posted some reflections on love from the writings of Staretz Silouan (1866-1938), a monk who lived on the most famous site in Orthodox Christendom, Mount Athos in Greece. Silouan’s writings have been published in several small volumes, one of which is simply titled: Wisdom From Mount Athos. It is from this particular volume that I have quoted and reflected on the truth of divine love.
Silouan rightly says the Lord loves all men but: “His love is greatest for the man who seeks him.”
The Lord clearly told us to “love your enemies.” But how can we love a person who hates us, who seeks our harm and even opposes our presence? Silouan answers:
When the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem and the Samaritans did not receive Him, His disciples John and James were ready to call down fire from heaven to consume them; but the Lord in His mercy said: '”I am not come to destroy but to save.” Thus should we have but one thought: that all should be saved. The soul sorrows for her enemies and prays for them because they have strayed from the truth and their faces are set towards hell. That is love for our enemies. When Judas bethought him to betray the Lord, the Lord was stirred to pity and showed him what he was doing. Thus must we too be gentle with those who err and stray, and we shall be saved by God’s mercy.
Love is made known through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit the soul knows through peace and the sweet savor of the Lord. O how we should render thanks to God for His great love towards us! Consider, my beloved brethren: the Lord bestows His Holy Spirit on the sinful soul and gives her to know His mercy. And to know God we have no need of riches: we need only love our neighbor and be lowly in spirit, sober and obedient, and for these virtues the Lord allows us to know Him. Could anything in the world be more precious than this knowledge? To know God, to know how He loves us and enlightens our spirits in the way he should go?
Some time ago I shared fellowship with a dear friend who spent many years living a life abandoned to the flesh. We had talked, on several different occasions, about whether or not he believed that he was a real Christian during his many years of professing the faith while he had lived a double-life. I was fairly well convinced that he believed that he had never been a real Christian until he had personally, remarkably and completely admitted his sin and publicly confessed it. He then took all the right steps to make his repentance real and lasting. His life over the last many years has shown, time and time again, the power of grace and the presence of God’s love. I wanted to find a way to ask my question in a more biblical way so I asked my brother, “Do you believe, when you were a boy who professed the faith correctly and soundly, and then as an adult when you taught the faith and invested much of your life into it personally and financially, that you truly loved the Lord Jesus Christ?” His answer was, “No.” Silouan wrote of this same kind of question when he said:
[The Lord] will ask us, too, as he asked Peter: “Lovest thou me?” Thus in paradise He will say to the whole people: “And you—do you love Me?” And all will answer Him: “Yes, Lord, we love Thee. Thou didst save us by Thy sufferings on the Cross, and now, Thou has given us the gift of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Do you love him? “Truly and faithfully,” you answer. Then show your love by loving not just your friends but also your enemies.