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Christian Love as the Basic Principle of Morality

We have observed that those systems of morality which do not found themselves upon the Gospel teaching of love are insolvent. We have also observed that Christian morality is completely established on the law of love; this law is the basis and summit of it.

What exactly is this Christian love? In its fully developed state, it is the most elevated, powerful and radiant of all human feelings. It is manifested as an experience of special spiritual and moral nearness, of a most strong inner gravitation of one person to another. The heart of a loving person is open to the one who is loved, and is ready to receive him to itself - and ready to give itself to the other. "You Corinthians," Apostle Paul wrote to his beloved spiritual children, "Our heart is enlarged for you ... there is room for you in us..." "Thus all will know that you are my disciples if you will have love among you" (Jn.13:35) said the Lord Jesus Christ to His Apostles (and through them to all of us).

Christian love is a special feeling which draws one near to God Who is Love Itself, in the words of His beloved Apostle (I Jn.4:8). In the sphere of earthly feelings, there is none higher than a love which is ready for self-sacrifice. And the whole history of God's relationship to man is a continuous history of the self-sacrifice of Heavenly love. The Heavenly King leads the sinner - the one who has opposed and betrayed Him - by the hand to salvation. For the sake of the sinner's salvation, He does not spare even His Only Begotten Son. The Son of God came down from heaven, was made Incarnate, suffered and died so that He, through the Resurrection, could give the sinner that blessed eternity which he had lost by his own betrayal. Before His sufferings, moreover, He gave His faithful a bequest, a commandment and ideal of love: "As I loved you, so you too love one another."

Such is the ideal of self-less Christian love. It embraces everyone, not just friends, but also enemies. In the Gospel, the Lord pointedly says: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even the sinners love those who love them" (Lk. 6:32). By these words, the Lord warns us against the egoistically selfish character of non-Christian, pagan love. In such egoistic love, the main element is the personal "I," our self gratification which we receive from this feeling. The Lord commanded something else of Christians: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who offend and persecute you." Thus, a Christian loves other people not for their good or obliging disposition but for themselves; they are dear to him in themselves and the Christian's love seeks their salvation, even if they treat him as an enemy.

Perhaps nowhere in the Holy Scripture is the essence and nature of Christian love so clearly revealed as in Chapter Thirteen of Apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. This chapter is appropriately called "the hymn of Christian love." Here, the Apostle compares Christian love with various spiritual gifts and virtues. He calls love the most excellent path (at the end of Chapter twelve), and then explains, with unshakable conviction, how much higher it is than all the gifts and experiences of man.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love," the Apostle says, "then I am as clanging brass and a tinkling cymbal" (like spiritless objects which only act on the external senses of man and not on his heart). And all the higher gifts and virtues prophecy, understanding all mysteries, wonder-working, faith and even struggles of self-denial and martyrdom: without love they are nothing, and only from love do they acquire their worth.

"Love is longsuffering and merciful, does not envy or exalt itself, is not proud nor unseemly in conduct." It makes one patient, meek, humble and of good-will toward everyone.

"Love does not seek its own, is not easily angered, does not think evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth."

This is a victorious force, the power of humble love, which destroys the egoism and evil which nest in man's heart. This true love always seeks truth and verity and not falsehood and obligation. Finally, "Love covers all things, believes all things, hopes in all things, Endures all things. Love never fails."

Truly, never. Nothing will break it, neither trials nor torments, nor sorrow, nor deprivations, nor disenchantment. And it will go with a Christian to a new and better world where it will blossom out in all its fullness when all other gifts have disappeared, and faith and hope have already ceased. Faith will be replaced by the sight of the reality, "face to face" and hope will come to realization; love alone will reign "unto ages of ages, forever." And thus, the same Apostle says, "Love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rm.13:10).

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