Understanding13 December 2022
We must learn to show understanding in our dealings with other people. Our attitude towards them is a mirror which reveals the truth about ourselves.
We shouldn’t forget that tax-collectors and harlots repented and were saved, whereas the scribes and pharisees who condemned them weren’t. Nobody’s appointed us to be judges of other people; that role belongs exclusively to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who will judge all of us according to our deeds at his glorious second coming. So we shouldn’t bank on knowing the eternal future of any of our fellow human beings. What we should do is to look to ourselves; we should be harsh judges as regards ourselves and lenient when it comes to others.
It’s only by our holy and luminous example, by kind words and conviction that we can help well-disposed people, never by bad words and play-acting.
Instead of concerning ourselves with the faults of others, we’d be better off trying to discover their virtues, which are often concealed. We should collect the precious stones of the virtues we discern in others, rather than become scavengers digging into the trash cans of human wretchedness. Let’s imitate the bees which flit from flower to flower, rather than the flies which are content with filth.
Saint Basil the Great makes the following noteworthy observation: people who are constantly concerning themselves with decay, wickedness, and the sins of others are like vultures, which fly over meadows, fragrant places of beauty, in their haste to get at rotting corpses.
Before we judge other people we should bear in mind the three filters of Socrates: is what we’re saying true, necessary and beneficial? If not, we should keep quiet and pray to God to have mercy on us, because if he heeds our sins, no-one could claim to be blameless. Equally, we shouldn’t forget Saint Paul’s ‘always’: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13, 7).
Like archaeologists who engage in the reconstruction of ancient ruins in order to restore them to their former glory, we should employ our good, Christian, virtuous life and our kind words in order to restore and rehabilitate the human wreckage around us. Let’s not copy the cartoonists who exaggerate something in order to poke fun at it; rather, let’s imitate the refinement of the painter who retouches something in order to make it more beautiful.
* Just as you need salt to make proper bread, so you need love with the virtues. Without love you can’t put the virtues into effect, because each virtue is confirmed by love and humility. Humility, on the one hand, elevates those who posses it to the heights of great achievements. Love, on the other, keeps them firmly in place there and prevents them from falling. So, let’s strive with all our might to acquire love, so that our enemies don’t take us prisoner (Saint Efthymios).
* Our life and death depends on our neighbor. Because if we win over our brother or sister, we win over God. And if we scandalize our neighbor, it’s a sin against Christ (Saint Anthony the Great).
*When people begin strongly to feel love for God in their soul, at the same time they begin to love their neighbor with a spiritual feeling.
*According to Saint Diadohos of Fotiki, nobody can love or believe truly if their conscience berates them.
*It’s impossible to have firm love (for God) if we have an inimical attitude to anything earthly.
*According to Saint Paul, if people have all the gifts of the Spirit, but don’t have love, then they’re of no benefit. Saint Maximos the Confessor tells us that we have to work very hard at acquiring it.
*Saint John Chrysostom says: ‘Don’t ignore the plight of your neighbor, but let each one of you be concerned with snatching them from the maw of the devil’.
*Abba Cassian teaches that when we don’t manage to have love for God, fasting, vigilance, poverty and reading scripture will not make us more venerable.
* Saint John of the Ladder asserts that if we lack love, that is we don’t love God and our Christian brothers and sisters, faith and hope are of no value.
* Saint Dimitri of Rostov teaches that the love the faithful bear for God is false if it’s the same as love for one’s neighbor, because we can’t equate the Creator with the created. Love for God is as it should be when the Creator’s loved and honored above any created thing.