As Orthodox Christians, how are we expected to relate to one another? Jesus was very clear on this. He tells us that we are to love one another. He told this to his disciples numerous times. He says forcefully, "This is My Commandment, That you love one another. (Jn 15:17) This commandment was then repeated by his disciples in their writings. He is also very clear about the extent of this love. He tells us that we are love our neighbor as we love ourselves What ever you wish men to do to you, this is what you should do to them, Matthew records. (Matt 7:12)
Metropolitan Gregory of St. Petersburg gives us some direction about how to live these words in our relationships. He was writing in the 19th century.
1. He says to wish the best to all your neighbors. "rejoice when they are happy and commiserate when they fall into misfortune."
2. Do not speak poorly of anyone. You surely would not want someone to speak poorly of you. Do not be suspicious of anyone, he says. As Paul tells us, "Love loves no evil." (1 Cor 13:5)
3. You like it when others speak well of you, so "speak well of all your neighbors, be especially careful not to slander your neighbor."
4. When someone speaks ill of someone that is not part of your circle of close friends, try to defend them if at all possible and never repeat what you have heard.
5. You do not like it when someone divulges your shortcomings, therefore, when you see the weaknesses in others do not speak ill of them to others. 'Charity...beareth all things... endureth all things' (1 Cor 13:4-7). You must seek to find the proper time to help such a person to see what they may not see in themselves so they can correct their ways. This takes a lot of love and carefully picking the right time to act. Avoid a direct confrontation that may raise anger as you would not like someone to tempt you in this way.
6. Strive to help others who are in need as much as you can. Metropolitan Gregory says, "a) We must, before helping others people help those whom God's foresight has united us with.... b) Among the above, before others, come to the assistance of those who are especially in need, that is the ill and disabled. Even if you cannot give them what they specifically need, than at least visit them, serve them in some way, and comfort them. Act this way even if they are totally ungrateful to you, for 'Love does not seek its own' (1Cor 13:5)"
7. Pray for all the departed and especially for those who died suddenly without proper preparation while still in serious sins. Metropolitan Gregory says, "Remember them more often, and offer what alms you can for their salvation.... [they] need our help incomparably more than those among the living who are extremely impoverished, because the reposed are now incapable of helping themselves. Only we the living can offer help."
8. Jesus asked us to love others as He loved us (John 15:12). Therefore, we must strive to develop our faith in Him along with a zealous desire to do His will. Metropolitan Gregory says, "We should act in relationship to our neighbor so that he might acquire love for Him, zealously striving to fulfill His commandments and thus continually grow toward eternal blessedness... The spiritual need of our neighbor is incomparably more important than any of his physical needs."
9. Our spiritual help should be offered first to those that God has bound us to, our children, relatives, friends, benefactors and employes.
10. As his last point he says, "we should never refuse physical and especially spiritual help to the depraved, to foreigners, non-orthodox, heretics, atheists, and enemies, for all of them, no matter what their orientation or disposition, are human, all created by the Creator, all with an immortal soul and in the likeness of God... We should show love to all people."
As Father Gregory tells us, if we work at doing these things the world will be different, it will be filled with happiness. It is by loving others that the universe is transformed in His love. He looks for us to work in cooperation with His love. This is the way love is spread to all peoples. It is also the way we love God.
Reference: How to Live a Holy Life, Metropolitan Gregory of St. Petersburg
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