Christian Love is not the same as the World’s love.

Love without knowledge and judgment is not love.

The Dogma of Love

Philippians 1:8-14

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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  1. Father, bless!

    Love is the highest stage og Christian perfection. It is a Gift, granted by Our God to those who permanently seek Him, faithfully trying to fulfil His Commandments, and purifying souls from sinful thoughts & unkind intentions…But we here, as Christians, are also given a little part of this Gift, a flame of His Love, we all have it, like a small candle in our hearts. We just should take care of it, in order not to allow it to disappear. For this we have a powerful – actions of love, as we have plenty of choices to show love & compassion…and it is reciprocal, as doing something in God’s name, we are merciful to ourselves. We give God a chance to make us better, to change us in such a way that we can reach His Heaven. We often choose earthy pleasures, deceptively consoling ourselves that it is a trifle, we’ll do better – next time. totally omitting that this next time may not come.

    I think to begin with we should cease judgment, which is a powerful deed of love itself. To others & to our own soul. I often think that to be able to learn to love in Christ, I should try to justify my neighbors, to cover their discrepancy, their inability or unwillingness to be what I want them to be. I should learn to respect their freedom, as God respects it – He, Who gave it to them, and to me. And I should be patient – first of all! I should learn to be patient & INDULGENT to people. I want them to be the same with me, so why not try to do it myself, to train, to attempt…Our good deeds, if they are done artificially, will not do us much good, if our heart is not melted; if I do not realise not in my mind only, but feel it strongly deep in my heart, that we are free, and we ALL are God’s children. Someone said: “my freedom ends whre freedom of another one begins”. Each one is unique. And precious. Not only to God, but to us as well! another thing is that we don’t notice it. we don’t notice people around us, and are not interested in them. If I were, I’d notice that apart from multiple drawbacks & irritating qualities, they have many dignifying features, and merits, that I, by the way, am deprived of. By myself. And how often we notice these merits, good features, good deeds of people when they die. and say – Oh, what a nice person he/she was! how could I miss all this? why didn’t I say a word of love & consolation to him/her?! We may leave nearby a seemingly ordinary person, may be even irritated by him, but when he leaves us for good…we suddenly become very surprised at noticing that we miss him so much, that he meant so much in our life, and that this our life looks not so empty without him…late repentance. well, better late than never…But time is irretrievable, and this chance to enlight the life of this particular person is missed foe ever, our chance to show love & assistance is gone.

    If we are merciful, if we feel sympathy, if our neighbours’ pain finds emotional response in our hearts; if we try to be closer to Christ, we’ll try to understand & love His creations, among whom each of us is.

    Pray for me!

  2. It is also very important to learn how to love in Christ – to be grateful. To God, and to his creatures. We often feel that someone owes us something, but if we learn to think that it’s we who owe much – to God & people, we’ll learn how to sacrifice something for them. We often keep offense that we are deprived of something, that someone didn’t give us enough of something that we should have the right for. The less sinner a person feels himself, the more “rights” he feels he should have. But if a person lives with thinking that he owes much, he will start showing love, attention, interest, and – gratitude, even for very little, ordinary things at first sight, but so very essential, and will not take all that for granted. And then God will burn the fire of His Love in our hearts, which will spread on all the living beings.

  3. Father, Bless,

    “God is Love” and He is “the Way, *the Truth*, and the Life”. So does that not make Christian Love and Truth one and the same thing–inextricably linked? There can be no Truth where there is no Love and no real Love where there is not the knowledge and judgment of Truth.

    And, Natalia,
    Thank you so much for this: “But if a person lives with thinking that he owes much, he will start showing love, attention, interest, and – gratitude, even for very little, ordinary things….” I needed to hear this, today.

  4. Oh, if you could know how my conscience reprimands me, that after all the good people did to me during my life, I still remain so self-centered, and totally unable to return at least a little – well, many of those people are out of reach today due to many reasons, but I am unable to repeat them towards others to whom I can do it…

    If a person does not realize, or did not have good examples, it can be understandable & maybe forgiven. But it’s much worse when you know what it is all about, when you met such examples, and you still remain deaf or “apathetic”.

    and – thank you for the Pooh! I did not even imagine how wise he is! I have to get it in the original to read. BTW, my Father many years ago advised me this – to read “for consolation”, but forgot about it…I only know the Russian version (which is too redone & adapted) & the cartoon (I like the Russian “movie” one very much). But now I am ready for reading A.Milne! though I read much of him in your posts:-)

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