Today the Church commemorates the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian who wrote:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:11-16)
St Silouan the Athonite further illumines St John’s exhortation to love one another:
We know that the greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul. The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge [of God]. The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer. The more perfect the love, the holier the life. (ST SILOUAN THE ATHONITE, p 75)
Loving those who love us is relatively easy according to the Gospel. It is loving our enemies that proves to be a challenge. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33). St Silouan challenges us to think about the Gospel:
‘The enemy persecutes the Holy Church,’ you say. ‘Am I then to love him?’ My answer is this: ‘Your poor soul has not come to know God, how greatly He loves us, and how longingly He looks for all men to repent and be saved. The Lord is love, and He gave the Holy Spirit on earth, Who teaches the soul to love her enemies and pray for them, that they, too, may find salvation. That is, true love. But if they are to be judged according to their deeds, then they merit punishment.’ (ST SILOUAN THE ATHONITE, p 378)
Silouan admits that if we simply judge our enemies by their deeds then they may merit punishment (as do we for our evil deeds). If we imitate God and love others, then what we wish upon them is God’s love. This is God’s justice.
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. (Psalm 103:8-10)