The World and the Darkness are Passing Away

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.  (1 John 2:8, 15-17)

It is not hard to figure out why if we love God’s Kingdom, we should neither love nor fear the world.  The Kingdom is eternal, while this world is limited by space and time and is in fact passing away because it is not eternal.  We are not to live for, love or fear, things which are temporary.  This includes not only pain, but all sorrow, sighing, suffering, but also Satan who belongs to the world that is passing away.  John the Evangelist clearly reminds us that both darkness and this world are temporary things which will pass away, while God’s Kingdom endures for all eternity.   One time, St John Chrysostom, writing to his friend and supporter, the Deaconess Olympia, chided her not to be so afraid of things happening in this world.  Even if they are bad and overwhelming, still they are temporary and have no permanent effect.  We who let the events of life so upset us, can help ourselves by reminding ourselves that this world is temporary and so everything that happens here will not endure, and in this sense is not of ultimate purpose or importance.  “This too will pass” is part of popular wisdom which recognizes that everything on earth is temporary.  We need only wait on the Lord and He will accomplish His will in His time (admittedly, this is not easy to do as it requires solid faith, even if just as small as the mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).

“So why are you fearing temporal things, which flow past like river streams?  For this is the nature of present things, whether they be pleasant or painful.  Another prophet compared all the happiness of mankind not to grass, but to something else even more ephemeral, when he pronounced everything in this life to be the flower of the grass.

[Chrysostom uses a theme common in the bible – grass and flowers are temporary things that last only a very short while and then pass away.  In our modern world, we often take flowers to be the sign of beauty, goodness, even love, but the ancients (including the biblical writers) saw them as something which last only a very brief while.  In the Bible, flowers are the very sign of how temporary even good things (like beauty) are.  And as Chrysostom notes, if the grass is temporary (lasting a season), grass flowers last even a shorter time period and are thus even more ephemeral.   “You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers”  (Psalm 90:5-6).]

He did not so describe just one portion of earthly affairs in this way – such as riches, or luxury, or power, or honors; but all the things that appear to men to be splendid encompassed in a single word – glory – when he brought in the image of the grass in saying, ‘All the glory of man is like the flower of the grass‘ (Isaiah 11:6).  . . .   Therefore, do not let yourself be troubled by what’s happening.  And stop beseeching this or that person for help, and running after shadows – for this is what human assistance amounts to – and instead, ceaselessly beseech God, whom you serve, simply to give a nod; and in one moment [mia kairou] of time everything is brought into proper order. . . .  For he is able to accomplish not only what we expect and hope for, but what is much more, and what is infinitely greater.  Therefore Paul says, ‘to the one who is able to do more than everything, even exceedingly more than we can ask or think’ (Eph 3:20).”    (LETTERS TO SAINT OLYMPIA, pp 46-47)

Saint John Chrysostom Letters to Saint OlympiaChrysostom tells Olympia to remain faithful to God because God is eternal, while the suffering of this world lasts only for a time.  We don’t need to fear the events of this world or imagine that their effects are indelible and unchangeable.   We need only invest our hope in the Lord and in His Kingdom, and then bide out time because God will triumph and His victory will be eternal.  All of the problems of this world, as horrible as they are, are also temporary and temporal – they belong to this world, but don’t last forever.  [Of course we recognize that the temporary nature of suffering is not neccessarily of comfort to us when we are in the midst of a crisis or suffering pain because either  might seem like they will never end to us.  But all things which occur in time have a beginning and an end, nothing lasts forever.]

“In this post-everything world we are not post-mistreatment of the powerless, we are not post-hunger even with our abundance of food, and we are not post-warfare because we still choose not to beat our swords into plowshares.  The Light of Christ is needed as much now as ever; as relevant today as ever.  …  As long as people sit in darkness, the call to follow Jesus will be relevant.” (Scott Borden in FOSSIL OR LEAVEN, p 21)

Darkness is real, but it doesn’t triumph over the light.  We may experience nearly total darkness, and yet God promises it will pass and the Light will shine out of the darkness.   For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Christ has permanently changed everything.  This world and this darkness is passing away, but the Kingdom which endures for all eternity is coming.

the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”  (Matthew 4:16)

If We Confess Our Sins, He is Just to Forgive

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 John 1:8-2:2)

St John Chrysostom comments:

“Do you see the physician’s prodigality which excels the loving concern of all human fathers?  It is not something burdensome and demanding that he requires of us, is it?  No, simply heartfelt contrition, a lull in our wild ideas, confession of sins, earnest recourse to him; then he not merely  rewards us with the curing of our wounds and renders us cleansed of our sins, but also puts to rights the person who beforehand had been weighed down with countless burdens of sin.  O the greatness of his love!  O the extent of his goodness!  When the sinner confesses his sins and begs forgiveness and gives evidence of carefulness in the future, God immediately declares him law-abiding.  For clear proof of this, listen to the prophet’s words: ‘Take the initiative in declaring your transgressions so that you may be declared upright‘ (Isaiah 43:26).  He did not simply say, ‘Declare your transgressions,’ but added, ‘Take the initiative,’ that is to say, don’t wait for someone to accuse you, nor let the prosecutor anticipate you – beat him to the punch by having the first say, so as to deprive the prosecutor of a voice.

Do you see the judge’s loving kindness?  In the case of human courts, whenever anyone admitted to doing this and anticipated proof of the charges by confessing his crimes, he would perhaps be in a position to escape torture and the torments accompanying it, and even if the case came before a lenient judge he would indubitably receive a sentence of death.  In the case of the loving God, on the contrary, the physician of our souls, we meet with ineffable goodness and a liberality exceeding all description.  What I man is this: if we steal a march on our adversary – I mean the devil – who on the dread day will take his stand against us and already in this present life before our entry into the court we confess our crimes, take the initiative in speaking, and turn accusers against ourselves, we will encourage the Lord not only to reward us with freedom from our sins, but also to reckon us among the number of upright.   (HOMILIES ON GENESIS 18-45, pp 43-44)

The Longsuffering Lord Who Wants Everyone to Come to Repentance

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  (1 Peter 3:8-9)

That God is merciful and ever awaits our coming to Him is a central tenet of the Gospel Orthodoxy preaches.   As we sing and pray in the Psalm: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:8-12). Biblical scholar Jean Danielou commenting on St Justin the Martyr writes that salvation always was intended for all the people of the world, not just for the Jews but for all Gentiles or Jews who repent of their sins:

“His task being to enable both the pagan and the Jewish worlds to understand the place of the Christ-event, Justin shows that it is not something alien either to the one or to the other, but represents the decisive moment in a grand design of God which covers the whole of history.

There has only ever been but a single truth, and this has its source in the Word of God; but it has been unfolded to mankind in accordance with a particular plan.  The Greeks and the Jews, each in their own way, knew it only partially; its full manifestation is in Christ, and it is this which the Church disseminates throughout the world, a task which is to come to completion at the Parousia.  In this way Justin lays the foundation of the theology of history…  The term which Justin uses to express this idea of God’s plan in history is economia. . . .  It is Justin who gives it its full import as a term for the plan of salvation, denoting explicitly the events of the life of Christ understood not as mere facts but as the manifestation of the plan conceived by God’s wisdom.”   (GOSPEL MESSAGE AND HELLENISTIC CULTURE, pp 157-158)

All of history (of all the peoples who have ever existed in the world) is part of God’s plan of salvation which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ.  Before Christ, not only pagans but even Jews only partially understood God’s plan.  God was revealing what he would do through the prophets and through various visions and ‘pre-incarnations’, yet the revelation was not fully understood until the coming of God in the flesh in Jesus Christ.  And God’s plan is for the salvation of every human who is willing to repent and come to God.  Human sin does not come close to preventing what God is working out: the salvation of His creation.   As St Isaac the Syrian states it:

“Just as an abundantly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful of dust, so the Maker’s mercy is not overcome by the wickedness of those whom He has created.”   (THE WISDOM OF ST. ISAAC OF NINEVEH, p 18)

False Christs, False Christianity

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  (Mark 13:22)

Jesus warned us that false christs and false prophets would come and try to deceive us and lead us away from Christianity.  One of the tactics of these false messiahs is they create false Christianities too.  They twist Christ’s message or ignore parts of it or emphasize only certain parts of it.  As Stephen Muse points out, one false Christian narrative is reducing Christ to some kind of genie or Santa who must respond to your requests if you use the correct magic formula whether it be prayer, ritual or moral action.

Christian faith is reduced to the magic of Disney-belief in a slot-machine deity who passes out tickets to paradise based on legalistic or sentimental adherence to religious slogans repeated by rote without repentance or obedience.”   (BEING BREAD, p 128)

Instead of nurturing a repentant, changed heart, in which love for God and neighbor become the priories of one’s behavior, one simply tries to follow rules, doing some things and avoiding others which leads to Pharisaic ritualism.  Christ however wants to abide in our hearts, not simply have us obey rules.   For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).  Or, we can remember Christ’s words:  “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

St Silouan the Athonite writes:

“God is Light, and the saints in the Holy Spirit become light.  God is Love encompassing all that exists, and the saints in the Holy Spirit embrace the universe in their love.  God is All-Holy, and the saints in the Holy Spirit are holy.  Holiness is not an ethical but an ontological concept.

A man is not holy because his morals or conduct are good, or even because he leads a righteous life in the sense of devoting himself to spiritual endeavor and prayer – indeed, the Pharisees kept the fasts and made ‘long’ prayers.  But that man is holy who bears within himself the Holy Spirit.  The One God is Truth and Life, and those who communicate in the Holy Spirit become true and have life; whereas those who fall away from God suffer spiritual death and depart into ‘outer darkness.'”  (ST SILOUAN THE ATHONITE, pp 147-148)

Even the Apostles were tempted to create a false Christ or false Christianity.  Think about the exchange between Peter and Christ in which Christ prophesies His crucifixion and Peter gets angry with Him for talking so.  And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23)  Peter wanted a glorious and victorious faith, but Jesus reminds him that God is love and God is willing to suffer and die for and because of the fallen human creatures whom He brought into existence.

Not only must we beware of false christs and prophets, we need to be sure we don’t try to live a false Christianity in which instead of being God’s servants, we turn God into our servant who we require to do our will – making Him a janitor to clean up our messes, a Santa to give us whatever we want, or a genie to make magic happen.

Prophecy of Scripture

… knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  (2 Peter 1:20-2:1)

False Prophet Barlaam

Prophecy is a major part of Scripture and how God communicates to and with His people.   “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).  Psalm 103:7 tells us that God “made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.”  Prophecy was a sign of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit with the people.  And yet, false prophets were also a plague on Israel.  So much so that eventually the rabbis declared that the age of new, direct prophecy was over, and they only way to know the will of God was to study Torah.

“With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70CE and then the disaster of the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome (132-35CE), the rabbis recognized the dangers of claiming direct heavenly commission or revelation.  In their view, the age of prophecy was over: knowledge of the divine will would come from study of the Written and Oral Torahs not visionary experience and not charismatic claims. ”   (THE JEWISH ANNOTATED NEW TESTAMENT, p 537)

The problem plaguing Israel regarding false prophecy came exactly in the way St Peter condemned in his epistle: people treated prophecy as personal revelations which could be interpreted individually and privately.  To this day, especially in charismatic or Pentecostal forms of American Christianity, these private revelations continue, and they continue to be false, misleading many Christians who believe the prophecy or revelation is really from God, not just the personal opinions of the ‘prophet.’  But alas, they often turn out to be private interpretations not based in God at all.  The purpose of the prophet is not to impose their own will on the people, but rather to help the people discern God’s will.  A prophet thus has to be guided by wisdom, not just by a desire to feel important or a desire to lead or because they believe prophecy is supposed to part of their life.  St Peter warned us there would be false prophets, so we should not be surprised by any of these prophets when they make themselves known in our country.  Some of these false prophets bear a responsibility for what happened in the Capitol building on January 6 as they claimed they had messages from God about President Trump.

“To speak for wisdom in this prophetic sense was not simply an intellectual task.  It is true that the prophet examined and evaluated the social order, rendering judgments about its relation to sacred reality and the prospects of divine curses and blessings.  In this way he was a kind of wisdom analyst.

In a more profound sense, though, the prophet became a spokesman for wisdom by embodying it and lending it his own living voice in a specific time and place.  The sacred and social order he aimed to enforce were not rigid legal  constructions or impersonal systems but, as we saw in both Genesis and Proverbs, dynamic realities dependent upon God’s active will.  To the extent that the prophet was a spokesman of wisdom, he was also attuned to the will and character of God as a free and powerful being not reducible to a moral system or even a particular kind of covenant.  To the extent that he spoke personally to his own people, he was drawn body and soul into the drama of human life.”   (Michael Legaspi, FESTSCHRIFT IN HONOR OF PROFESSOR PAUL NADIM TARAZI, p 17)

Prophets and prophecy in Christian experience lead us to Jesus Christ.  No matter what their claims are, no matter how appealing their message, regardless of how much we like the message or agree with it, we are not to be fooled by them.   But the extreme individualism of America makes us susceptible to false prophets.  For though St Peter warned us their messages if from God are not subject to personal interpretation, because many forms of American Protestant Christianity (especially Pentecostal or charismatic) encourage private prophecies and personal interpretations (they fit so well into the American individualist narrative) we see people being misled by these false prophets.  St John the Evangelist also warned us against being deceived by false prophets, a problem that has obviously been with Christianity from its early days and still goes on today.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.  (1 John 4:1-3)

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:10-14)

“The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14) develops the theme of repentance in the light of Christ’s parable.  True repentance involves a change of heart and mind, an inner transformation of motives that will lead to greater love for God and humanity.  The publican’s penitence contrasts sharply with the vainglory of the Pharisee, and the Church’s prayer is for that quality of repentance which gives access to the abundant grace of God, as can be seen in the following extracts from the liturgical texts.

Open to me, O Giver of Life, the gates of repentance.

A Pharisee, overcome with vainglory, and a Publican, bowed down in repentance, came to Thee the only Master.  The one boasted and was deprived of blessings, while the other kept silent and was counted worthy of gifts.  Confirm me, O Christ our God, in these his cries of sorrow, for Thou lovest mankind.”  (John Baggley, FESTIVAL ICONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN YEAR, p 75)

St John Climacus reminds us of another lesson we gain from the Publican:

“Try not to talk excessively in prayer, in case your mind is distracted by the search for words.  One word from the publican sufficed to placate God, and a single utterance saved the thief…”  (THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, p 48)

Prayer for Our Nation and All Nations

Almighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace.

Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war. Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find justice, peace and freedom.  Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression.

Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise. Amen.   (My Orthodox Prayer Book, Kindle Location 825-834)

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  (Isaiah 2:4)

Called to Partake of the Divine Nature

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  (2 Peter 1:2-4)

St Peter‘s words that you may be partakers of the divine nature are part of the basis for the Orthodox idea that salvation is theosis, or deification, even more than justification.  We are united to Christ and in Him participate in the divine nature.  Christ makes is possible for us to commune with God and to share in the divine life and love.  Salvation is not merely having our sins forgiven – far more important it is our being united to God.  Justification, it turns out, is just a portion of what salvation is about.  If we think only in terms of justification we reduce the full importance of salvation.  Orthodox theologian Dn. John Chryssavgis says:

“Also, if one understands the ultimate destiny of man, and therefore also his ‘salvation,’ in terms of theosis, or ‘deification,’ rather than as a justification from sin and guilt, the Church will necessarily be viewed primarily as a communion of free sons of God and only secondarily as an institution endowed with authority to govern and to judge.”   (THE WAY OF THE FATHERS, p 173)

St Peter is no the only one who presents salvation is far more glorious terms than justification.  Even St. Paul speaks about our participating in God’s glory.

…it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-18)

Commenting on Paul’s words in Romans, biblical scholar L. Ann Jervis says: “Paul opens a window onto the hope of participating in glory, which is to participate in God’s being, a reality from which sin is excluded.”   (AT THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL, pp 105-106)

Salvation is not merely taking away our sins, guilt and transgression.  Far more importantly, it is participation in God’s glory, becoming one with God, sharing in the divine love and life.


Suffering Because of Being a Christian

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.  For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?  Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”  Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.  (1 Peter 4:12-19)

Russian Orthodox theologian Nicholas Berdyaev reminds us as Christians, we are never to persecute anyone, but we are to endure persecution as God’s will if it comes to us:

“There have always been two races in the world. They exist today, and this division is more important than all other divisions. There are those who crucify and those who are crucified, those that oppress and those who are oppressed, those who hate and those who are hated, those who inflict suffering and those who suffer, those who persecute and those who are persecuted. It needs no explanation on whose side Christians should be.”  (IN COMMUNION Winter 2004, pp 11)

In 1919 as the atheist Bolsheviks were taking over Russia and severely persecuting the Church in Russia, Patriarch Tikhon issued a pastoral letter to the faithful to remind them that being persecuted is something Christians should be prepared to accept:

“What a difficult, but yet elevated task it is for a Christian, to retain within himself the great joy of non-anger and love even when his enemy has been overthrown, when the persecuted martyr prepares himself to judge his recent persecutor and oppressor.  The providence of God has already placed certain children of the Russian Orthodox Church in front of this temptation.

Passions arise… Orthodox Russia, let this shame pass by you!  Let this curse not touch upon you.  May your hand not be reddened by blood, which cries out to heaven.  Do not let the enemy of Christ, the devil, carry you away by the passion of vengeance and to besmirch the endeavor of your martyrdom from the hands of the violators and persecutors of Christ.  Remember: pogroms are the victory of your enemies.  Remember: pogroms are a dishonor for yourself, a dishonor to the Church!  For the Christian, the ideal is Christ, who used no sword to defend Himself, who brought the sons of thunder to peace, having prayed for His enemies on the Cross.  For the Christian, the guiding light is the command of the holy Apostle, who suffered much for his Savior and who sealed his dedication to Him by his death: ‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God: for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.  No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; is he thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ (Rom 12:19-20)” (IN COMMUNION Winter 2004, pp 7-8)

Patriarch Tikhon was writing to his faithful flock not when persecution was just a future threat but after the fiery trial had already begun for the Christians in Russia.  He called them to remain faithful to Christ no matter what happened.  But he is also clear that violence and vengeance are not the Christian response to persecution.  The same is true today for Christians in America, especially those who fear that someday we might be persecuted.  Christ warned us this would happen, and our response is to hold on to Christ and the Gospel and never betray God’s love by violence or vengeance.  We are to live for the Kingdom and to witness to that by our faithfulness to Christ.  Our weapons are faith, forgiveness, love, mercy, compassion.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  (2 Timothy 3:12)

Loving God and Neighbor Is Being Near God’s Kingdom

So the scribe said to Jesus, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.  And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:32-34)

St Irenaeus of Lyons says:

“… we should no longer turn back, that is, I mean, to the former legislation.  For we received the Lord of the Law, the Son of God, and through faith in Him we learn to love God with [our] whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves.  But the love of God is without all sin, and love of the neighbor works no evil to the neighbor.”  (ON THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING, pp 97-98)