Gospel Love and the Politics of Man
As I read through The Struggle For Virtue by Archbishop Averky, I find it curiously relevant for our times as we approach an election in the US. Chapter 4: Acquiring Gospel Love is quite more overtly political than the other chapters, but there’s a reason for that. In order to teach on acquiring Gospel Love, it makes sense that one must contrast it with the type of love most prominent in the world (as a result of the kind of worldly altruism discussed in the last post).
Actual Gospel love is foreign to our fallen human nature. In our fallen state, egoism, self- love, and self- assertion appear to be innate to our nature.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading along with this series. Our nature is inherently prideful, and thus we elevate ourselves above our station, which necessarily results in such egoism. We must, then, do battle against our nature in order to practice Gospel love.
All reasonable people, all political and social leaders, would do well to become preachers of love according to the Gospel, and not only preachers, but confessors as well.
Indeed, wouldn’t this be glorious!? Imagine a world where this was taken seriously. We have glimpses of it in history, but the current state of affairs is well described in the first quote above. Because of our fallen nature, many people—especially political leaders—are simply not living according to the Gospel.
true Gospel love is inaccessible to us, insofar as from a spiritual condition we have descended into a sensual condition, and live not by spiritual precepts, but according to the flesh.
This is truly the reason for our present state, and I’m not speaking exclusively of the political realm (that’s a symptom of the greater condition). Modern man is almost entirely sensual, fleshly. This is repeatedly contrasted with the spiritual and the Godly throughout Scripture, and echoed thoughout the pages of this book. Luckily, for those who wish to struggle to acquire Gospel love, we are given the words of a Saint to help us:
“Do you wish to acquire love for God?” asks Bishop Ignatius [Brianchaninov]. “Shun every deed, word, thought, and feeling forbidden by the Holy Gospel. By your enmity towards sin, which is so hateful to the all- holy God, you will show and prove your love for God. When it happens that, due to weakness, you fall into transgressions, heal them at once by repentance.”
I love St. Ignatius. His words are so practical, yet simultaneously brutal.
Shun evil. Fail. Repent. Repeat.
I feel like we live in a world where steps 1 & 3 are ignored, and I’m no exception.
Love for our neighbor is so closely connected with love for God that Scripture considers it as a measure of our love for God. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, claims the Apostle (1 John 4: 20).
This is similar to the comments Archbishop Averky made in the introduction, and what I expounded upon in the first post in this series. If we love God, our good works will show it; God is not the beneficiary of our good works, but our neighbors are. As the saying goes “God does not need your good works, your neighbor does.” Yet we must be loving our neighbor in this way in light of all else we have learned from His Excellency so far.
Our love cannot be an attempt to earn merit and it cannot be an expression of our own virtue on display. Our love must benefit ours and others spiritual needs moreso than the needs of our souls and bodies, lest our priorities be confused. It is from such confused priorities that politics come into play.
This is why it is so sadly ridiculous to read about various world peace conferences and negotiations that aim at the establishment of enduring peace on earth. Here the prophetic words of God are in truth being fulfilled. People thoughtlessly say, “Peace, Peace,” when there is no peace (Jer 6: 14). Why is there no peace? Because, as the Prophet Jeremiah, who correctly foresaw our times, says, Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely…. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush (Jer 6: 13, 15).
Everyone is given to covetousness. Is that not the perfect definition of every form of political demagogery on the planet? Is there not a single political issue in this world that can be boiled down to either one’s own pride or one’s own covetousness? Either the bodily desires are met (and thus pride) or they’re not (and thus covetousness).