Forgiveness is the heartbeat of the gospel. Meditate on these words.
Living a life of forgiveness is part of our DNA as Christians. Forgiveness is the heart of the gospel. Without true, sacrificial forgiveness, our love grows into a system of costs and benefits. Forgiveness requires sacrifice and humility, two things which are unnatural to us as humans.
Here are some scriptures and quotes on forgiveness to meditate on this coming week.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:26)
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Eph. 1:6-7)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matt. 18:21-22)
1. Cry out, O sinner, with all your might, and spare not your throat; for your Lord is merciful and loves those who repent. As soon as you return your Father will come out aforehand to meet you, and rejoice in you. ~ St. Ephraim the Syrian
2. Be ashamed when you sin, not when you repent. ~ St. John Chrysostom
3. Sometimes we do not see any outlet, any escape from our sins, and they torment us: on account of them, the heart is oppressed with sorrow and weary. But Jesus looks upon us, and streams of tears flow from our eyes, and with the tears all the evil in our soul vanishes. We weep with joy that such mercy has suddenly and unexpectedly been sent to us. ~ St. John of Kronstadt
4. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life. ~ The Didache (Teachings of the Apostles)
5. Virtue in the sight of others is to bear with those who oppose us, but virtue in God’s sight is to love them. ~ St. Gregory the Great
6. You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. ~ St. Seraphim of Sarov
7. The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils arouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility in God. ~ St. Silouan the Athonite
We can come up with numerous excuses and reasons based on objective data in order to justify our wealth against so many poor, and maybe some of those excuses hold water. But what I’ve found in my readings of the early church is that there was often no gray area. It has convicted me to think of how much I say I accumulate to bless others while still keeping a wide margin for myself.
I’ve gathered seven quotes which I have found throughout the early church writings. Before that though, I want to provide a few verses on serving the poor, showing God’s heart for the poor within scripture (NKJV) first.
A poor man who oppresses the poor Is like a driving rain which leaves no food. (Prov. 28:3)
For the Lord hears the poor, And does not despise His prisoners. (Psalms 69:33)
You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute. (Ex. 23: 3)
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. (Luke 14:13)
1. The poor man has one plea, his want and his standing in need: do not require anything else from him; but even if he is the most wicked of all men and is at a loss for his necessary sustenance, let us free him from hunger. ~ St. John Chrysostom
2. Human beings have accumulated in their coffers gold and silver, clothes more sumptuous than useful, diamonds and other objects that are evidence of war and tyranny; then a foolish arrogance hardens their hearts; for their brothers in distress, no pity. What utter blindness! . . . Attend not to the law of the strong but to the law of the Creator. Help nature to the best of your ability, honor the freedom of creation, protect your species from dishonor, come to its aids in sickness, rescue it from poverty …. Seek to distinguish yourself from others only in your generosity. Be like gods to the poor, imitating God’s mercy. Humanity has nothing so much in common with God as the ability to do good. ~ St. Gregory of Nazianzus, On Love of the Poor
3. Do you wish to honor the Body of the Savior? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold. He who said, “This is my body,” and made it so by his word, is the same who said, ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.’ Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls. ~ St. John Chrysostom, On the Gospel of St. Matthew, 50, iii
4. When a man really considers his neighbor as himself, he will never tolerate having more than his neighbor. If he does have more, but refuses to share things generously until he himself becomes as poor as his neighbor, then he will find that he has not fulfilled the commandment of the master. He no longer wants to give to all who ask, and instead turns away from someone who asks of him while she still has a penny or a crust of bread. He has not treated his neighbor as he would like to be treated by him. In fact, even if a man had given food and drink and clothes to all the poor, even the least, and had done everything else for them, he has only to despise or neglect a single one and it will be reckoned as if he had passed by Christ and God and He was hungry and thirsty. ~ St. Simeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Chapters
5. I am often reproached for continually attacking the rich. Yes, because the rich are continually attacking the poor. But those I attack are not the rich as such, only those who misuse their wealth. I point out constantly that those I accuse are not the rich but the rapacious. Wealth is one thing, covetousness another. Learn to distinguish. ~ St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Fall of Eutropius
6. Therefore fight against every worldly enticement, against every material enticement that hinders you from fulfilling Christ’s commandments, love God with all your heart, and care with all your strength for the salvation of your own soul, and the souls of others, be soul-loving. ~ St. John of Kronstadt
7. It is not so much because of need that gold has become an object of desire among men, as because of the power it gives most people to indulge in sensual pleasure. There are three things which produce love of material wealth: self-indulgence, self-esteem and lack of faith. Lack of faith is more dangerous than the other two.
The self-indulgent person loves wealth because it enables him to live comfortably; the person full of self-esteem loves it because through it he can gain the esteem of others; the person who lacks faith loves it because, fearful of starvation, old age, disease, or exile, he can save it and hoard it. He puts his trust in wealth rather than in God, the Creator who provides for all creation, down to the least of living things.
There are four kinds of men who hoard wealth: the three already mentioned and the treasurer or bursar. Clearly, it is only the last who conserves it for a good purpose–namely, so as always to have the means of supplying each person’s basic needs. ~ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Centuries on Love, Third Century
Notice, most of these quotes are from St. John Chrysostom, a bishop from the fourth century, who’s homilies and commentaries are pillars of Christian doctrine. Chrysostom often spared no criticism for wealth and it’s detriment to our spiritual formation. I highly recommend reading his homilies. Many of them are for free or cheap on Kindle.
In our perspective, however, the “original” sin is not primarily that man has “disobeyed” God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for Him and for Him alone, ceased to see his whole life depending on the whole world as a sacrament of communion with God. The sin was not that man neglected his religious duties. The sin was that he thought of God in terms of religion, i.e., opposing Him to life. The only real fall of man is his non-eucharistic life in a noneucharistic world. The fall is not that he preferred world to God, distorted the balance between spiritual and material, but that he made the world “material”, whereas he was to have transformed it into “life in God”, filled with meaning and spirit.
Alexander Schmemann, “For the Life of the World”
This is a beautiful, beautiful text. It’s taken from A Spiritual Psalter, compiled by Theophan the Recluse. Here we read a very succinct explanation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
He Who is from God, God the Word, the only-begotten Son of the Father, of one essence with the Father, Being from Being ineffably begotten of the Father without a mother before all ages – the very same is born in the last days to a daughter of men, to the Virgin Mary without a father. God is born incarnate, wearing flesh borrowed from her, having become man, which He was not, and remaining God, which He was, in order to save the world. And He is Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father and the only-begotten of His Mother.
I confess One and the Same as both perfect God and perfect Man, in two natures, united in one hypostasis or person, recognized as indivisibly and unconfused and unchangeably God Who was clothed in flesh, animated by an intelligent and rational soul, and came to resemble us in every way except sin.
One and the Same is earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal, both with and without beginning, timeless and subject to time, created and uncreated, suffering and free of suffering, God and Man and perfect in both. One in two natures, in both Unitary.
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