St Basil tells us that observing the commandments is an essential sign of love, but reminds us that without love ‘even the most effective action of the glorious gifts of grace – even of the most sublime powers and even of faith itself’ will not be of help. St Cyril of Alexandria comments that Jesus is saying these things to encourage us in the knowledge that whatever we may suffer, we are loved by God; he too, suffered; he too rose; we are risen in him.
Chrysostom refers to those who cause dissension, saying they will not not inherit the kingdom of God because of the violence they do to the love of Christ. Whoever lacks charity lacks God; whatever his lips say, his heart is cold, puffed up with pride and arrogance. Love, St Augustine reminds us, is the summation of the law, and it is so because the Trinity is love. As the Father loves the Son, the Son the Father, and the Father the Spirit and the Son, and the Spirit the Father and the Son, so does that love pour out in creation of all things – and we are made in that image. If we love one another, we love God, and if we love God, we love one another.
St Gregory comments that even at the height of his suffering on the Cross, Jesus did not hate those who had crucified him, but asked the Father to pardon them. Christ died for the unGodly, for those not yet reconciled with him – he loved his enemies and laid down his life for his friends; that sets us an example to which we must aspire.
If we fear, we are not yet God’s friends, John Cassian pointed out. We are to move from servants to sons. As we come to know God better, we move from that fear which is right at one stage, into a deep and abiding love. We shall no longer be slaves of sin, but friends and sons of God. As part of God’s loving family, we must give an example of love. From that example of love will come a message that will conquer the world. We must, St Cyril says, attach ourselves as guides to those who are still lost, and not put obstacles in their way by dissension. This love is the fruit of his Spirit, and if we have the Spirit, we have love, and we love, we have the Spirit. When we love one another, we love God.
The world in chains of sin is marked by its hatred; in contrast to that, God’s kingdom is marked by love. We show which we belong to by our love.