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He First Loved Us

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Our relationship with God is a relationship of love. Saint John the Apostle says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). Our perception of God’s love for us leads to loving Him. God’s love for us is an unlimited subject, as it is related to God’s unlimited and incomprehensible love for mankind as a whole. We cannot perceive the depth of God’s love for us because our mind and perception are limited; yet let us try to speak for even a little bit of God’s love for us.

God’s fatherhood is an indication of His love for us:

Saint John the Apostle says, “Behold, what manner of love the Fr. has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1). Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us that when we address God in our prayer we say “Our Fr. who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). We are the sons of God by adoption, and also because he created us after His image and likeness.

Therefore, he called every human being saying, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26). When man drifted away from God’s commandments, God rebuked man reminding him of His fatherhood, saying, “…I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” (Isaiah 1:2) Also He blames man in the Book of Malachi, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear.” Malachi 1:6). God allowed the people in the Old Testament to call Him their father. Therefore, the people in the Book of Isaiah cry to God, saying, “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of your holiness and of your glory…Doubtless you are our father… You O Lord, are our father. our redeemer; your name is from everlasting.” (Isaiah 63:15, 16). Also the people address him saying, “But now, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8). David the Prophet chants on God’s fatherhood to humanity, saying, “Like as a father pities his children so the Lord pities them that fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103: 13, 14).

God’s fatherhood in the Old Testament

God, in His love for mankind, called humans as His sons even in the Old Testament. He made them lead a life of righteousness and holiness as His own sons.

God’s fatherhood in the New testament

In the New Testament, God’s fatherhood is manifested in its deepest form. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the image of the unseen God, speaks to us about God’s fatherhood to us, when he invites us to pray and say, “Our Fr. who art in heaven…” When He talks about perfection, He says, “Be therefore perfect, even as your Fr. which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:48). When He taught us to love our enemies, He wanted us to be truly sons of the heavenly father: “That you may be the children of your Fr. which is in heaven, for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) On the three foundations of worship, namely prayer, fasting and alms (giving), our Lord teaches us indicating that worship is a relationship between us and our heavenly father. The alms should be in secret, as they are given to God not to human beings, “And your Fr. who sees in secret himself shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:4) Prayer should not to for the sake of showing off before people, but our Lord says, “But you, when you pray, enter into your chamber, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Fr. who is in the secret place, and your Fr. who sees you in secret, will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6). You need not repeat your words redundantly, “for your Fr. knows what things you have need of.” (Matthew 6:8). Also fasting should not be to show off before people, but as a worship to the heavenly Fr. who sees in secret. (Matthew 6:17, 18). God’s fatherhood and the life of holiness: God’s fatherhood make us lead a life of righteousness and holiness. Therefore, Saint John the Apostle says, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him. and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

The life of righteousness and holiness is a gift bestowed on us by our loving God, as “He came to take away our sin; and in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5). This kind of life is a sign of our sonship to God. In other words, we lose our sonship to God if we live in sin. In the Old Testament, God called human beings as His sons; yet those who sinned had deprived themselves from sonship to God. In the book of Genesis, the divine inspiration called the sons of Sheth the sons of God; whereas the daughters of Cain are called daughters of people. “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair.” (Genesis 6:2). In the New Testament, the divine inspiration distinguishes between the sons of God and the sons of Satan, “In this, the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.” (1 John 3:10). God had called every body to be His children and to call Him ‘Our Fr.;’ yet not all the people responded nor did they become confirmed in the sonship of the loving God.

Indications of God’s fatherhood for us

There are several indications of the fatherhood of our loving God. He is our Fr. who shepherds us, cares for us and is concerned about our salvation and eternal life, as well as our materialistic life on earth. When man fell, God never neglected His love. While He was punishing, He gave the promise for salvation, as God said , ‘the woman’s seed shall bruise the head of the serpent.’ (Genesis 3:15). During the Gregorian Liturgy we pray, “For me, You have changed punishment into salvation.” When man went astray, and all the humanity was corrupt, “There is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3), God never abandoned man, but worked hard to look for the lost ones. Therefore, He sent prophets, the Law and the Commandments. Again, the words of the Gregorian Liturgy deeply express the profound love of god the Fr. and the good shepherd of the sinful man: “You, my Lord, have changed punishment into salvation for me. As a good shepherd you sought the lost one. As a real father you bore all the trouble for me, who fell down. You have provided me with all the remedies that lead to life. It is You who have sent to me the prophets, for my sake, the sick. You had given to me the Law for help; You had ministered salvation for me when I violated Your Law. As true light, you have shown to the lost and the ignorant.” In the fullness of time, God the Word was incarnate so that He could remove our sins and give us eternal life. Our Lord Jesus Christ, for Him is due Glory, is the good shepherd, who sacrifices Himself for our sake, recognizes us, keep us and protects us: “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and am known of mine… My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:14, 27, 28)

As to our needs on earth, it is enough for us to hear the voice of our loving Fr. saying, “Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed… for your heavenly father knows that you have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6:31, 32).

We are captives of God’s unlimited and incomprehensible love, and no words can help us express our gratitude towards this profound love. May we ask our loving God to support our weakness and give us the insight that will enable our deficient meditations in His profound and overflowing love.

 

One Response to "He First Loved Us"
  1. raed zaitoon says:

    This is a beautiful and well written message reminding us of how truly loved we are our heavenly Father.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this Bishop Serapion.
    May God bless and keep you for us.

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