for Coptic Orthodox Media

Source Of All Virtues

Love is the crown of all virtues and the most essential one.

When the Lord Christ was asked which the great commandment in the law was, He said:
It is love; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And the Lord concluded, saying, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”(Mt 22: 35-40; Deut 6:5).

It means that all virtues are combined in love.

♥ Love is a combination of all virtues.
St. Paul the Apostle says in respect, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience…” (1 Tim 1:5).

And truly St. Augustine said; If you have love, you can do whatever you want. St. Paul, therefore, considers it greater than faith, hope, and prophecy (1 Co 13:13).  He further explains, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
( 1 Cor 13: 1-3) How amazing is such love that removes mountains!

Perfect and limitless and all holy love is God Himself.
Therefore whoever has no love will have not God within him.  That is why God’s children are known for having love, because God abides in them, as St. John the Apostle says, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn 4: 16)

The Lord Christ set love as a sign that distinguishes His disciples.  He said, “By all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)  And St. John makes it a sign of birth from God, saying. “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 Jn 4: 7,8)

♥ Love is the first fruit of the Spirit.
It is evidence of the work of the Spirit in us. The apostle, therefore, puts it first, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering…” (Gal 5: 22) No doubt whose heart is filled with love will be filled with joy, and who lives in love and joy will have peace.

♥ Love is the last commandment given by the Lord to His disciples.
The Lord said to them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love me another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn 13: 34) He loved them to the end
(Jn 13: 1); He gave Himself for them.

Such is the love required from us; a response to God’s love to us.

The apostle says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4: 10) Indeed; for God had loved us before we existed, so He brought us into existence. Our existence is the fruit of His love towards us when we were a mere idea in His mind and a pleasure in His heart.

♥ Love exists and has existed before eternity and before sin.
Since God is eternal, and He is love, so love is eternal.  Because of His love, He did not want to be alone, but due to His goodness, He gave existence to the creation to live with Him.
He created first the angels, and love connected them, as a father once said, “If there were ten thousand angels, together, they would have one opinion!”

They also had love towards God, before the sin of Satan as David the Prophet says, “Bless the Lord, you; His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word.” (Ps 193: 20).

♥ Love was the origin of the first man’s relationships.
Before sin love had been perfect between God and man; and the love between Adam and Eve was chaste and pure, with trust and cooperation. There was love even between Adam and the animals; he did not hunt them, nor they attacked him. With such love, there was no fierce nature in any of the animals, but all were tame.  Adam loved them and gave them names.  The same applies to Noah in the ark.  He took care of all the animals which he took with him into the ark.

Love then is the origin, and hatred is foreign.  True love is powerful and never falls, as the Scripture says, “Love is as strong as death… Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.  If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.” (Song 8: 6, 7). And the apostle says, “Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13: 8) therefore every virtue based on love will be firm, and every relation based on love will remain strong and will not shake.

Therefore the Lord says, “My son, give me your heart.” (Prov.23: 26).

God wants the heart and the love, not mere formalities and outer behavior; for worship void of love is rejected by God, and He said, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Mt 15: 8; Isa 29: 13) And God also said to the people who pray and offer sacrifices without love to God or the others: “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me.  The New Moons, the Sabbaths … I cannot endure iniquity… My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.  Your hands are full of blood.” (Isa 1: 13-15).

♥ True love ought to be practical.
St. John the Apostle says in this respect, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” ( 1 Jn 3:18) And the Lord told us the Parable of the Good Samaritan and mentioned how his love was practical, revealed in care and concern and spending (Lk 10).  The love of God – blessed be His name – to us is practical, including full care. He created first everything for our sake, then He created us to enjoy His works, and His care continues.  In the redemption God so loved the world that He gave His only – begotten Son (Jn 3: 16), and while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5: 8).

We have to prove our love to God practically by keeping His commandments.

God did not only say, “My son, give Me your heart,” but He also adds, “and let your eyes observe My ways.” (Prov 23: 26) And the Lord says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me,” “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love,” “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (Jn 14: 21; 15:10, 14).

Do not say that you love God while you break His commandments; for St. John says, “He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandment, is a liar… But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him,” “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.  Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him,” “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”
(1 Jn 2: 4, 5; 3: 6; 5: 2).

♥ Love should mix with every virtue.
Any virtue void of love is not a true virtue, whether charity, ministry, or prayer.  David the Prophet says: “I will lift up my hands in Your name.  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.” (Ps 63: 4). In all kinds of worship love should be mix with worship: concerning going to the church the Psalmist says, “I was glad when they said to me: Let us go into the house of the Lord,” “How lovely is your tabernacle, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord.” (Ps 122: 1; 84: 1). And about God’s Scripture he says:
“I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure,” “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119: 162,103). The same applies to all other elements of worship.

On the Day of Judgment God will see our virtues and reward us for the love that is in them.

Virtues void of love will not be counted for us, and I fear they will be counted against us.  Therefore the apostle says, “Let all that you do be done with love,” “put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (1 Cor 16: 14; Col 5: 6). Even faith is required to be working through love (Gal 5: 6), and martyrdom is a result of the love of the martyrs to God.  They loved Him more than life, relative, and the whole world, so they loved to get rid of the bond of the flesh to meet with God.

♥ Love is of many types: love to God, to people, to good…
Religion is a trip of love towards God’s heart through the hearts of the people.  Love, therefore, is the holding bond that connects people with God.  It is the essence of religion and piety.  We cannot attain love to God unless we love the others; for “ He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
(1 Jn 4: 20). Our love for the people brings forth in the heart many virtues: trust, cooperation, giving, sacrifice, friendship, and peace with the others.

♥ Love is extending from the self to the others.
It is forgetting of the ego and living in the hearts of the others, living for them and wishing their good rather than one’s own good.

♥ Love is completely different from lust.
Love always wants to give, but lust always wants to take. Lust is mixed with the ego, whereas love is mixed with self-denial for the sake of others.  True love must be mixed with chastity and purity and truth, otherwise, it will be harmful.

♥ Love has certain characteristics distinguishing it.
The apostle gives a list of them in (1 Cor 13: 4-8); “Love suffers long and is kind… does not envy … does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely does not seek its own, is not provoked, seeks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” It is a long course that needs to be tackled in detail one by one.

♥ Love should imply love of good.
To do good is not itself sufficient; for it may not be a virtue but done by force or due to fear, or to receive praise or a reward, or in hypocrisy, or with grumbling in the heart.

If love towards people is lacking, many vices will ensue.

Lack of love may result in hatred and dislike, and in gloating and rejoicing in iniquity, whereas the Scripture says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Prov 24: 17) It also may extend to anger and malice, and even to insults, beating, and murder, or to condemnation, censure, and slander.  It also may cause envy, pride, arrogance, intolerance, and cruelty.

Lack of love towards God may appear in neglecting prayer, Bible, and church, or in not being aware of existing in God’s presence, nor feeling happy with heaven.

♥ Love of the world is evidence of a lack of love towards God.
Friendship with the world is enmity with God, as St. James says (Jas 4: 4). And St. John says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2: 15, 16) Love of the world includes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and also love of money, of vain glory, of the ego.  All these are against the love of God and the love of good.