We find the words in this title in the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. There in closing his epistle to them he conveys the blessing—”The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen!” They’re powerful words, and we echo them at every Divine Liturgy as we come to the Anaphora. They are words that come again to us in the Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday of the Gospel of St. Luke.
In this Gospel (Luke 6:31-36) we find Jesus teaching and healing all those who sought after Him. And in His teaching, Jesus shows the love of God for His creation, for before we encounter the words of today’s Gospel, Jesus explains to those who have come to Him, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.” What a preface for what then comes in the balance of the Gospel lesson!
For in this lesson, God’s love for us is fully revealed. It requires us to become students—to desire with all of our hearts to seek and to understand the Lord’s teaching, and how He intends for us to use that teaching to change not only us as His followers, His disciples, but how then He expects that we will change the world by the degree to which we follow Him!
In this reading Jesus says to us, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Here is where we as students must emerge. “What credit?” What does Jesus mean? Is He referring to accounts in some fashion? Is He saying that our love to others for whom love may seem undeserved earns us “points” with God? Well, to a certain extent you could make such an argument, and not be wrong. But to truly be a student, we must dig deeper.
You see, the word used for “credit” in Greek is χάρις, (cha’-ris), which translates as credit in our translation, as thanks in some others, but carries that very much deeper meaning, that of grace! Yes, it’s the same word used by St. Paul in 2Cor 14 and referenced in this article’s title.
Jesus is saying to us, “What grace do you receive if you behave as ‘regular people’ behave?” Grace is that which comes from God, that which in and of itself is Godly. And so when we show love to those for whom the world would say that they are undeserving, we are showing ourselves to have received the grace of God in our baptisms, to be living the grace of God through our participation in Christ’s Body and Blood, and to be seeking yet greater grace of God through following where our own Master has already led us. For we know no greater love that that which Jesus showed from the Cross, as He prayed to the Father, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Saint John records these words in his Gospel, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) It is by loving the unlovable, by caring for those whose hate can only be defeated by showing the power of love, by not forcing ourselves but by desiring with all our being to live that life that our Lord has already shown us as His perfect example of how He has taught us that we should also live, it is by all of these that we truly become His disciples.
The world will tell you you’re crazy. Just recognize that as they to convince you of this, they too need to feel God’s love—through someone as radical as you and me, if we can find it in our hearts to live the lives our Lord has called us to live, lives that conform to the example He has shown us, to walk as He has walked.
For I don't know about you, but I don't deserve His love - and yet I know with all certainty that it is there! And as He loves me, the unloveable, he calls me to love all others. All!