Gospel Message & Recording
Love: where does it come from? Science, throughout the ages, has discovered the smallest elements of life—the atom, electrons, DNA—but it has not explained where the feeling of love comes from. (There are other emotions that we feel that have not been explained, for example, compassion and forgiveness. But, here, we will deal specifically with love.) Science has attempted to explain the metaphysical (the other than physical)---love---but it has fallen short. For instance, can anyone explain how a person walking on the street seeing a homeless person feels compassion? Where does this compassion come from? These questions can only be answered by simply saying: we don’t know. Yes, that correct! We don’t know. This idea of not knowing is nothing new to Orthodox Christianity. We understand that somethings can be a “mystery.” That is, it cannot be explained. We, therefore, realize and understand that the origin or such things, as with all things, is from God. Love is, therefore, a divine feeling that is given by God. And, personally, I would say that it is a “gift” given by God to those who desire to truly experience Christ the Son of God.
Today in the Gospel reading we hear the Lord Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?” three times. This is significant because Peter denied Jesus three times. It’s clear that Jesus, in questing Peter, is attempting to erase the statement of denial by a statement of love. But why love? Jesus could have asked Peter for his obedience or asked him to say sorry. But Jesus wanted to know one thing—if Peter loved him. For Christ, it’s our love toward Him, that identifies if we belong to Him, or not. In other words, loving Christ makes us who we are—followers of Him. In other religions, it’s not love that is exemplified but rather obedience, reverence, respect, and religious observance; but for Christ, such things are a secondary consequence of loving Him. Christ wants your love, that’s why He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” It is the same question He asks everyone here today, “Do you love me?”
I have often been asked the question: how do I love Christ? What does that look like? It’s hard to answer but the best response that I can provide is the relationship between husband and wife. The husband and wife court each other for some time and eventually form a bond of love that leads them to the Altar of marriage. In many ways that love was a natural progression. As the two individuals got to know each other, the positives and the negative, a love starts to grow, a sort of affection. It’s not necessarily timed or planned it just happens. Similarly, as you take part in the process that we call Orthodox Christianity--the prayers, fasting, Qurbana, Confession--a natural affection begins to grow for Christ.
In marriage, the tenderhearted love of the initial months eventually begins to fade. You learn that love isn’t momentary or circumstantial, but rather an ever-growing process that must be worked on. Loving Christ doesn’t mean everything will be happy. There will be sacrifices that will have to be made in order for us to maintain that love for Christ. In other words, you have to “grow in love continuously.”
Marriage produces virtues inside of us, such as humility, patience, perseverance, hope, joy, etc. Similarly, loving Christ, produces inside of us, an affection for the hurting, the marginalized, the persecuted, the poor. That’s why Christ, after asking Peter “Do you love me,” said, “Feed my sheep.” “Feed my sheep,” can be translated into “considering others.” We should consider others and help others to come closer to Christ. If we “feed” ourselves and not others, then that is evidence that we don’t genuinely love Christ. Loving Christ means loving others.
In marriage as in our spiritual journey with the Lord, there are the tough times, but we must endure and pass through them, holding on to the promises of God, knowing that Christ will never leave us nor forsake us.
- If someone asked you, “Do you love Jesus Christ?” How would you answer that? Do you feel that you truly/genuinely love Christ? Be honest.
- “In other words, loving Christ makes us who we are—followers of Jesus. In other religions it’s not love that is exemplified but rather obedience, reverence, respect, and religious observance; but for Christ, such things are a secondary consequence of loving Him. Christ wants your love, that’s why He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” It is the same question He asks everyone today, “Do you love me?” Comment.
- Marriage is one example I gave in attempting to explain how to love Christ. Are there any other real-life experiences that explain how we can love Christ, for example, our children, helping others?
- “Feed my sheep,” can be translated into “considering others.” We should consider others and help others to come closer to Christ. If we “feed” ourselves and not others, then that is evidence that we don’t genuinely love Christ. Loving Christ means loving others.