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Friday, October 14, 2011

On Loving God

From: Saint Tikhon's of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven 
 
Beloved Christians, all Christians say, “How can we not love God?” Or, “Whom shall we love, if not God?” This is a true saying, “How can we not love God?” And likewise, “Whom shall we love, if not God?” God is the supreme good, uncreated, without beginning, without end, existent, and without change. As the sun always shines, as fire always warms, so God is by nature good; He is and always does good, since there is none good, but One, that is God” (Mt. 19:17). God even does good when He chastises us, for He chastises us so that He may correct us. He strikes us so that He may have mercy on us, He gives us sorrows so that He may truly console us. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb.12:6). How then can one not love so great a good as God? God is our Creator. He created us out of nothing. We were not, and behold, we live, move, and have being. His almighty hands formed and created us. He created us, O men, not like other creatures, senseless and irrational. He created us by His own special divine counsel, Let Us make man” (Gen. 1:26). Of other creatures it is said, He spake, and they came to be, He commanded, and they were created” (Ps. 148:5), but not so with man. What then? Let Us, it says, create man.

O most holy, O most beloved counsel! The Tri hypostatic God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, said of man, Let Us create man.” What sort of man? In Our image,” it says, and likeness.” O the marvelous goodness of God toward man! O the most exalted honor of man! Man was created by God in the image and likeness of God. On what creature has God bestowed such honor? We know none like it. It was bestowed on man and he was honored with the image of God. O the most beloved and beautiful of God's creation, man, the image of God! He bears it in himself as a royal seal. As the king is honored, so is his portrait. As to God the Heavenly King is due all honor, so to His image, man. God poured forth this goodness on us in our creation, O Christian. How then can we not love God?

We fell and we perished. We cannot mourn sufficiently over this: And man being in honour did not understand, he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them” (LXX-Ps. 48:13 [KJV-Ps. 49:12]). But even so, God Who loves mankind did not forsake us, but He found a wonderful means for our salvation. He sent us His only begotten Son to save us and to gather us to Himself. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16 17). How then shall we not love God, Who loves us so? As we all call Him, God is the Lover of Mankind; then man must be a lover of God. For nothing can be given in return for love but love and gratitude.

God is our provider. He takes thought for us and cares for us. He gives us our food, clothing, and home. His sun, moon, and stars give us light. His fire warms us and we cook our food with it. His water washes us and refreshes us. His beasts serve us. His air enlivens us and keeps us alive. In a word, we are surrounded with His blessings and love, and without them we are not able to live for a moment. Then how can we not love God Who loves us so? We love a man who does good; all the more should we love God Who does good, Whose we are and everything we may possess. All creation, and man himself is God's possession. “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof” (LXX-Ps. 23:1 [KJV-Ps. 24:1]).

God is our Father. We pray to Him and say, “Our Father, Who art in heaven” and so on. How then can we not love God the Father? Good children necessarily love their father. If then we wish to be true children of God, and unhypocritically call Him Father, then we must also love Him as Father.

Truly is it said by all, “How can we not love God?” Love, like every other virtue, must also reside in our heart. For if love does not reside in the heart, then it does not exist. God does not say, “Love, be humble, be compassionate, pray, beseech, call unto Me,” and so on, to our lips, but to our heart. Then love, humility, compassion, prayer, and the rest, must reside in the heart. And if it abides in the heart, then it will inevitably appear outwardly like a belch from stomach. A hidden fire gives itself away by its heat, and a fragrant balm by its smell. Thus David showed the holy love which he had for God by his most sweet hymns to God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my foundation, and my refuge, and my deliverer. My God is my helper, and I will hope in Him, my defender, and the horn of my salvation, and my helper” (LXX-Ps. 17:2 3 [KJV-Ps. 18:2-3]), and in many other places. Though love may hide in the heart, nevertheless it cannot be concealed, but it gives itself away by outward signs.
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