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2013-07-28 message

posted Jul 30, 2013, 10:46 AM by St. John's Webmaster

We begin learning about God’s love from the Bible and the famous passage of 1 Corinthians 13 can be our starting point. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Let us, then, begin at the very beginning. Love suffers long, also translated as love is patient. 2 Peter assures us that God’s love is this way: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We also have the Lord’s own witness that this is the case. He accepted ill-treatment throughout His earthly ministry. When He was not welcome in a village and the disciples wanted to destroy it with fire from heaven, he stopped them saying that “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Lk. 9:56). And, of course, He was long-suffering towards Peter in his denial and the disciples in their unbelief following the resurrection.

There are a couple of things to note about this long-suffering love. First, long suffering is not the same as suffering in silence, or even remaining silent about things that are wrong. Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery, but admonished her to sin no more. He let Peter know in no uncertain terms that he did not yet understand Christ’s ministry (“get behind me, Satan”), and he upbraided the disciples for their unbelief after the resurrection. None of these actions diminished in any way His love for those with whom He interacted. And this brings me to the second thing to note about the long-suffering love: its constancy.

Time and again, the disciples did things they should not have: they argued about who would be greatest, they fell asleep when Christ was praying in Gethsemane, they doubted the resurrection. Through all these, God’s love did not abandon them. Christ did not remove them from the rank of the disciples.

This brings to mind a distinction that I have found useful in my struggle to draw closer to God: to love and to like are not the same thing. If we confuse the two and someone we ‘love’ does something we do not ‘like’ we can easily convince ourselves that we do not love that person any more. We are not commanded to like everything (and we should not like things that are wrong), but we are commanded to love one another despite the things we may not like. Indeed, it is in loving others when we dislike their actions that we identify most closely with the long-suffering aspect of God’s love.

With love in Christ,
+Fr. Peter