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. ). 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
"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
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).