Sunday, September 29, 2013

Met. Georges Khodr on Christian Ethics

Arabic original here.

The Rules of Christian Ethics

The Gospel passage today, taken from the Gospel of Luke, tells us that "Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you." We also find this saying of the Lord in the Gospel of Matthew (7:12). This is the second saying. The first saying, which was not read today is "What you do not want people to do unto you, do not do unto them."

Here in the Gospel today we have two basic rules of Christian behavior. The first rule is that we refrain from hurting people: We do not slander anyone. We do not lie. We do not steal. We do not kill. Anything that we do not wish to be done to us, we do not do to others, because others-- all others-- are the children of God and the Lord rejoices in them. His face shines upon all of them, regardless of what neighborhood they belong to or what group they come from. All people belong to God, whether they like it or not, whether they know Him or not. Just as children in a family might not know that their father and their mother love them-- they might not feel in themselves their parents' love even though the parents love them and want every good thing for them-- so also is God with us: He loves. He loves those who know themselves to be His children and those who do not know themselves to be his children because this is God's way.

The second rule of Christian behavior was summed up by the Lord when He said, "Be merciful just as your Father is merciful." This is how today's Gospel closed, after the Lord gave examples of His teaching: If you lend to someone and he does not pay it back, do not hold it against him. Do not expect to be repaid anything, since people might not give back in kind.

Christ did not say to us, "If you love people, they will necessarily love you." Naturally, this is the general rule, that if we love truly, deeply and sincerely they will return our love. This is not, however, an absolute rule: they may give us hatred in return. A person may not be able to love. But we must imitate Christ who loved His enemies and forgave them while He was on the cross because love is triumphant in the other. It is always victorious.

This means that we cannot cut anyone off from our hearts. We cannot put some people in our heart and others outside it. All are on the inside and we treat them on this basis. We are the ones who establish closeness. We take the initiative to draw near to people and we do not expect anything from them. Humans, by nature, are not open to others. They are prejudiced in favor of their family or their village or their sect. They think that their family is better than every other family, that their village is better than others, and that their sect is better than every other sect. The reality is that all of us are of this clay, all of us are shaped with sins.

What the Gospel is telling us is that there is no human group that stands out for its morality. Yes, there are different circumstances and emotions, but human beings, no matter what group they belong to, have many sinners among them and also many who love. No one has a monopoly on sin or righteousness. Sin is spread out, as is holiness.

When we gather together to perform the Divine Sacrifice, we declare that we are all one in Christ, one in His love. Our hearts are given to all people, from one side of the world to the other, so that we might remain faithful to the end, with love as the final word for us.

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