“…We follow the path Christ has left us in order to grow more like Him, in order to allow God to change us, already in this life, from the fallen Image to the actual Likeness to Christ. A disciple is not one who ‘conforms’ to authority to escape punishment and gain reward; nor is a disciple one who ‘exercises’ spiritual muscle to grow into a superman – there is nothing punitive in asceticism, nor is there anything athletic in terms of spiritual accomplishment. A disciple walks a path that can change him into who and what he is following. This is why Christ says to us: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ We may have the intention to get closer to God, but unless we practice as a way of life those things that weaken what separates us from God and that strengthens what unites us to God, this intention remains merely theoretical, never finding realization. We remain ambivalent, conflicted in our depths, however much we put a good face on that at the surface.” (Jamie Moran in Raising Lazarus by Stephen Muse, p 147)
St. John Chrysostom (d. 407AD) says that God has ordered the world to encourage us to love one another. As Chrysostom sees it, our needs and mutual dependencies bind humans together to encourage cooperation. Human life is ordered by God not to encourage rugged individualism but rather mutual interdependence. This is the lesson taught to us from birth by our birth: we don’t bring ourselves into the world, nor do we create the world into which we are born. Rather we share the earth with others and are to value others because they can provide us things we cannot provide for ourselves. Society itself exists as a means for humans to serve one another and help meet the needs of all.
“All good works are the fruit of charity…Now charity teaches us not only by words but also by deeds. In the first place, we ought to keep in mind the way in which we have been created. Indeed, after he had created the one man, God ordained that we should be born from him, so that we all should consider ourselves as one and try to practice charity for one another. In the second place, God in his wisdom fostered our mutual love through our treaties and commerce. Look how God has filled the universe with many goods, but to each part of the earth he has given its particular fruits. In this way, impelled by our needs we communicate with one another, give to others what we have overmuch and receive what we lack.
Thus we increase our love for our brethren. The same thing God has done with each human life. He has not given to all of us to know everything, rather to one medicine, to another architecture, yet to another, art, so that we may love one another by necessity. The same thing is to be seen in the spiritual order, as St. Paul says: ‘To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge; by the same Spirit another is given the gift of healing, and still another miraculous powers….’ ”(Daily Readings from the Writing of St. John Chrysostom, pp 105-106)