Sep 30/Oct 13 2009 19th Tuesday after Pentecost.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; (10) That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; (11) Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
The way a Christian loves is not the way the world loves. This is a primary reason why the world hates Christianity. Christian love may be thought of as a fundamental DOGMA, since God is love. How can we know God, if we do not learn to love as He loves?
St Paul, here, as is customary for him, expresses to his beloved flock that he has a deep desire to pray for them, and then delineates the things that he prays for them. These things are always spiritual, since the Apostle, as a minister of God, wants nothing less than permanent change for his flock, and anything in the world that is not spiritual, whether good or bad, is temporary.
Here he teaches about the dogma of love. He does so not really by design, as in “now I am going to teach the Philippians what love is”, but rather as a natural outgrowth of his love for the Philippians and his desire therefore that they “abound yet more and more” in love. He is, as we say “thinking out loud” here, and it is natural for him to mention the most important aspects of love.
When we read the scriptures, we must be careful to discern the context of words, and the words that are in proximity to a word or idea will always illuminate that word or concept. This principle is beautifully illustrated in this selection.
The Apostle prays that the love for the Philippians may “abound yet more and more”, and without the further clarification he gives to show what he means by love, his prayer is exactly that same as a Christian or a heretic or a TV preacher with a sharp suit who prays with his eyes wide open towards a camera, or any movie star or politician who expresses a desire that we “love”.
It is the Apostle’s clarifications that teach us the dogma of love. These words are absolutely necessary in our day, because the word “love” has been polluted with many false meanings, and each false teaching or action is based on faulty knowledge or judgments.
His desire for the Philippians shows us the two virtues that are indispensably part of love: knowledge and judgment. Without these two, nothing that is called love is love.
Knowledge is the virtue that allowed us to know and proclaim the truth of things. This means that love must be able to discern what is true, and right, or wrong and false.
Judgment in Christian theology always is associated with righteousness, that is, works of righteousness. For our purposes, let us say that it is knowing AND doing what is right.
True love must know what is good and holy and do it.
These attributes of love mean that the one who loves does not haphazardly accept any behavior or idea.
Our society is running pell mell, like the Gadarene swine, to embrace sinful lifestyles in the name of love. Many, including Orthodox Christians, are living moment to moment, tossed about by every wind of secular doctrine. We, by and large, are a people without eternals goals.
The end of St Paul’s prayer shows the end result of love according to knowledge and judgment – with sincerity to “approve things that are excellent … till the day of Christ”, that is, until the second coming of the Lord. If St Paul’s prayer is totally fulfilled in us, we will be “filled with the fruits of righteousness”, that is become completely holy and united to God.
None if this is possible without us following the dogma of love. It will not be found in the pronouncements of the world and worldly, but is proclaimed by the scriptures and holy fathers, and only understood by the heart that loves as God loves.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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