God Acts Towards Us Rather than Reacts to Us

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Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:42-48)

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St Nikolai Velimirovic offers us a meditation on how to live these Gospel commands:

Christ’s command that we do to others as we would that they do to us is so natural and so clearly good that it is a wonder and a shame that it has not long ago become a daily habit among men.  No man desires that others do him evil: let him therefore do no evil to others.  Every man desires that others do good to him: let him therefore do good to others.  Every man desires to be forgiven when he sins: let him therefore forgive the sins of others.  Every man desires that others be sad in his sadness and rejoice in his rejoicing: let him then be sad in the sadness of others and rejoice in their rejoicing.  Every man desires that others speak good of him and give him honor, feed him in hunger, visit him in sickness and protect him in persecution: let him do the same to others.

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This holds good both for individuals and for groups of people, neighboring tribes, nations and countries.  Were this to be adopted as the rule by all classes, nations and countries, all malice and conflict between classes would cease, as would enmity between nations and warfare between countries.  This is the medicine for all such sicknesses, and there is no other.

The Lord continues: For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye, for sinners also love those that love them? And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye, for sinners also do even the same? And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye, for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again?”  This means: if you wait for others to do good to you, and to repay this with good, you are doing no good thing.  Does God wait for men to deserve the sun’s warmth, and only then command the sun to shine? Or does he first act out of His charity and love? Charity is an active virtue, not a passive one. God has made this clear from the foundation of the world. From day to day since the world began, the Lord has, with His gracious hand, poured out rich gifts to all His creatures.  Were He to wait for His creatures first to give Him something, neither the world nor a single creature in it would exist.

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If we love only those who love us, we are merchants engaging in barter. If we do good only to our benefactors, we are debtors paying off our debts. Charity is not a virtue that simply pays off debts, but one that constantly lends. And love is a virtue that constantly lends without looking for repayment.  If we lend to those from whom we hope for a return, what are we doing by this? We are transferring our money from one cash-box to another, for that which we lend we consider to be our own, as much as when it was in our own hands. (HOMILIES Vol 2, pp 193-194)