Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 19

Posted: July 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 19

49.  If a man is not envious or angry, and does not bear a grudge against someone who has offended him, that does not necessarily mean that he loves him. For, while still lacking love, he may be capable of not repaying evil with evil, in accordance with the commandment (cf. Rom. 12:17), and yet by no means be capable of rendering good for evil without forcing himself. To be spontaneously disposed to ‘do good to those who you hate you’ (Matt. 5:44) belongs to perfect spiritual love alone.

This particular text strikes a deep chord in me. I’ve explored and practiced many spiritual paths and love is the one thing that truly distinguishes Christianity from the rest. We worship a God who is love, and whose love is so extravagant that he became one of us and experienced all that we experience. We proclaim that our way is the way of life, but the way of life is the way of love. It’s this love that drew me into Christianity. It’s this love that keeps me, like a moth circling a flame, in this faith.

And love of this magnitude terrifies me.

I was never the sort of angry person who lashed out at anyone and everyone, assuming the worst of all. As a rule, I was willing to live and let live. If a person demonstrated they were my enemy in a social context, I was typically willing to simply disassociate from them. But if a person acted like an enemy in a context, such as work, that required our interaction, I was pretty ruthless. I would turn my mind and talents toward ensuring that person could do nothing to harm me.

There are many and varied reasons that I was the sort of person that I was in my twenties. All things considered, I think it was better than some of the alternatives. I have empathy, not the scorn you usually hear today, for those who essentially give up, wrap their true selves deeply within, and become victims. I understand the desire to hide and ways we can lose our will. I understand how people can become ruled instead by anger. I’ve come closer than I care to be to the latter at times. But mostly I was a loyal friend to the few I considered friends and tried to treat most others with a sort of distant respect. But if you identified yourself as my enemy, my goal was to prevent you from harming me and those I loved and to make you regret that choice.

It was the love of some Christians that drew me back toward a faith I had long since dismissed. And that time, I saw the God of love visible in the Incarnation and have been circling that flame ever since. And the light of that flame has done much to reveal the person I was and drive out shadows. The more you live in the light, the more you see — the more you can’t avoid seeing.

I’m no longer the person who preemptively acts, where possible, to destroy his enemies. I’m no longer the person who automatically returns evil for evil.

But I’m also not a person who instinctively returns good for evil, or who even returns good for evil much at all.


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