[Pope##s Article of 24 May, 2009] (455) by Dr. Wedad Abbas
Not in word or in tongue,
But in deed and in truth
(1 Jn 3: 18)
So many people claim that they love the others, but love to them is a mere word on their mouths rather than heart emotions; it does not appear in their dealings. Others may say that they love God, yet they break His commandments every day! Therefore St. John the Beloved says,
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
God requires such love from us in our dealing with Him and with the others. The Lord tried Peter the Apostle with this matter on Maundy Thursday, for Peter said to the Lord, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble … Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” “I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (Mt 26: 33- 35; Lk 22: 33) But what actually happened was that Peter denied his Master thrice before a maidservant! Therefore the Lord said to him after the Resurrection, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (Jn 21: 15, 16) The Lord meant practical love not love in word and in tongue.
But afterwards Peter proved his practical love to the Lord.
He and the other apostles endured prison and scourging for the sake of faith ad preaching, and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5: 41). Peter also proved his practical love for the Lord when he refused the threats of the high priest and said boldly, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5: 29) Again his love was proved when he concluded his mission with dying for the Lord##s sake with the head upside down.
Our father Abraham, the father of the fathers and prophets, proved his love practically.
He obeyed the Lord##s call and went out of his family and from his father##s house to the land He showed him (Gen 12: 1), not knowing where he was going (Heb 11: 8). His love for God was evidently greater than his love for his family and country and was also mingled with obedience. In his deep love he agreed to offer as a burnt offering his only son whom he loved Isaac, for whom he received the promises. Against his emotions as a father he lifted the knife to kill him for the sake of his love for God.
Love in his case mingled with obedience and sacrifice.
Practical love is sacrificing one##s time, effort, money and everything for the sake of those whom one loves. When love grows and attains perfection one may give even oneself, as the Lord says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one##s life for his friends.” (Jn 15: 13) That was the type of love with which the martyrs offered themselves f or the sake of God.
The prominent example of such love is that of the Lord Christ, with which He gave Himself for us.
God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5: 8), the Righteous for the transgressors and the ungodly. On the cross He was a sacrifice of love, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3: 16). He also said, “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (Jn 10: 11)
This is the sign of love: giving and sacrifice.
One sacrifices everything, considering it as nothing, for the sake of one##s beloved, like a mother giving all that she can give and more for her child, finding pleasure in that: in sacrificing her rest and health for the sake of her child. The mother is an example of sacrificing love. That is why God gave this example when speaking about His love for us, saying, “Can a woman forget her nursing child … Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isa 49: 15)
Another example of love for God is given by St. Peter the Apostle in his words, “We have left all and followed You.” (Mt 19: 27)
In their love for Him they left home and work and followed Him, not knowing where they were going. Matthew left the tax office, the money and the duties as soon as the Lord called him! (Mt 9: 9) The Samaritan woman likewise left her water-pot and went into the city to tell everybody about Him (Jn 4: 28), and His disciples the fishermen: James, John, Peter, and Andrew left the boat and followed Him as soon as He called them (Mt 4: 18- 22). St. Paul also said in this context:
“I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” (Phil 3: 8, 9)
He did not regret the loss of anything and considered it as nothing for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ (Phil 3: 7).
The same applies to Moses the Prophet.
He was a prince in the palace of the daughter of Pharaoh, enjoying the luxury of the palaces. But for his love for the people and the ministry he left everything; and when he grew up, he refused to be called the so of Pharaoh##s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God … esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Heb 11: 24- 26).
The same can be said about the father monks and hermits in the deserts.
They left everything and dwelt in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth for their great love for Christ the King. Everything in the world no more had any value in their sight.
A sign of practical love is the removal of the world##s love from the heart.
The more God##s love increases within the heart, the more the worldly things will decrease. God##s love removes away whatever worldly things may be in the heart till God alone remains in the heart according to the commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” (Mt 22: 37) Therefore St. John the Apostle teaches us, saying: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2: 15)
Indeed! Can anybody say he truly loves God while he refrains from paying the firstlings and the tithes, or stands hesitating between love for God and love for property?! Practical love towards God and people is that a person shares his money with the needy, even if that costs him much.
Practical love is to endure trouble for the sake of those whom you love.
The Lord said to the angel of the church of Ephesus, “I know your works, your labor, your patience … and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored fro My name##s sake and have not become weary.” (Rev 2: 2, 3) Actually those who loved God and labored for His sake have found pleasure in such labor, and St. Paul says, “Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor,” “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (1 Cor 3: 8; Heb 6: 10) Therefore the apostle encourages us to labor more for the sake of the Lord, saying, “My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15: 58)
Our love for people appears also in laboring for them, as Jacob the Patriarch labored hard for Rachel.
He described his labor for her for long years, saying, “In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.” And the Scripture describes those years of labor by the words, “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” (Gen 31: 40; 29: 20)
Another example is the love of our father Abraham for his nephew Lot.
When Abraham heard that Lot and the people of Sodom were taken captive in the war against Chedorlaomer, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants, brought back all the goods, Lot and his goods, the women and the people (Gen 14: 13- 16) Such is the practical love, courage, and valiant behavior.
In the story of Araunah the Jebusite practical love is apparent.
When David wanted to buy the threshing floor from Araunah to build an altar to the Lord, Araunah offered to give it to him with the oxen for the burnt offering, the implements and the yokes because of his love to God, to the altar, and to King David, but David refused wisely and said, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” (2 Sam 24: 12- 24)
Spiritual love appears clearly in the field of ministry, in the pastoral care, visitation, teaching, journeys, watching by night, solving the problems of the congregation, the efforts to convince, and patience. But love without enduring such labor cannot be described as practical love.
See how Paul the Apostle loved God and His Kingdom, saying, “In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fasting …… by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report.” (2 Cor 6: 4- 8) His love for God was really practical; he was not satisfied by the words “Your Kingdom come” in prayer!
As the Scripture teaches us we call for faith and works together.
Faith without works is dead (Jas 2, 17, 20), but the acceptable faith to God is faith working through love (Gal 5: 6). Love is a huge tree with various delicious fruits, and by their fruits you will know them (Mt 7: 20). Consider then what is the fruit of love in your practical life and in your relationship with God and people?
How practical is our love for the sinners and the needy?
Do we despise them and keep away from them, or rebuke them, or lead them gently to repentance? For the apostle says, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another##s burdens.” Gal 6: 1, 2)
Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom, and Moses for God##s people (Gen 18, 22).
There should be struggling for the falling that they may be restored to God, as David the Prophet said, “I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I fid a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Ps 132)
Let our love for the poor be practical love.
Let us not stop at the emotions of compassion, delivering sermons, or writing articles about that, but we ought to give even from our needs (Lk 21: 4). A prominent example is St. Serapion who sold his Bible and gave its price to a poor person, and to another who was naked he gave his own garment and returned to his cell without his Bible and garment! When his disciple inquired about the Bible the saint said, ##The Bible kept saying to me: sell what you have and give to the poor. And because I had nothing except that Bible, I sold it and gave its price to the poor!##
Practical love also appears in social life.
Ruth refused to let her mother in law return alone after the death of her son, and said to her, “Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die … if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ru 1: 16, 17)
Finally we can find the program of practical love which St. Paul the Apostle gave us in (1 Cor 13).
Would that God gives us the ability to meditate on this program!