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God-love-1john410

Usually, Jessica comments on Saturdays, but she is indisposed. I told her I would take the opportunity to say a few words on a topic which we have covered from a few angles here, the things we hold in common. I am vaguely, and I mean very vaguely, that there is a great welter of Evangelical Protestantism out there; but I know next to nothing about it. One reason I value Rob’s comments here is that they remind me that that strand of Christianity exists, and that it is not so very far away from the forms of Christianity in which I have spent most of my life. It reminds me of what we hold in common.

The simplest thing is that we believe in God. It is easy enough to respond by asking what that means, but I would respond that it means we believe that Jesus is God Incarnate and that through HIs life, death and resurrection, he brings us salvation; if we believe that we believe in the same God. Thereare myriad nuances, but if there is that, we are on the same page. Do we worship that same God? Yes. Ah, you might say, the Protestants do so in a way we Orthodox or Catholics do not, and the New Liturgy in the Catholic Church is not what the Latin Mass was, it is impoverished and lacking in grandeur and solemnity; that may be so, but my response would be that what is more important, that we worship God or that we don’t?

We ought to remember that others believe as sincerely as we do that the way the worship God exalts Him; if we cannot see it, perhaps, rather than condemn, we might remain silent and attempt to understand? If, as we might believe, they hold many erroneous opinions, we might care to recall that they hold the same opinion of us, and if we find, in our conversations, that their ideas about what we hold are not always accurate, we might wonder whether the same is true of our beliefs about them?

If, as we are told, God is love, then how shall we hope to find him by showing disdain for others? When we chastise and say we think it is for their good, we should examine our hearts with great care first and check that there is not, in it, anything of pridefulness on our part; are we so righteous that we can lecture our brother? Are we so close to being God-like that we can tell our brother that he is not a brother but a stranger? How can we believe in a God who said that when we do things for the stranger in our gates it is as though we do it for him, and then turn the batteries of our polemic on that stranger? Was there ever anyone converted from error by being told in self-righteous tones that it was so? Or do we get better results when we listen, when we acknowledge that if we wish others to understand us, we should, first, try to extend to them the same privilege? The Orthodox holy man, St Silouan the Athonite, remarked:

“God is Love”, and that is why a sermon needs to always spring from love. Only then will the preacher and the listener both benefit. But if you censure them, then the souls of the people will not listen to you and no benefit will be achieved.”

We might do well to remember his wise words; and remembering them, to attempt to put them into practice.