On the Law of God
Up to this point, we have talked about the duties of a Christian in relation to himself. Now, let us examine his obligations in relation to others.
The first element for a proper relationship with other people is justice. Without this basic element, even one’s goodness can turn out to be useless – if partiality and one-sidedness appear in it instead of truth. There are, however, marked differences in the conditions of just relationships between people:
Legal or, loyal justice (from loi-law): This is the lowest form of just relationship, the most wide-spread in civil and state life. A loyal person strives to precisely fulfill state and civil laws which are mandatory for him and for others. In addition, he usually fulfils all his personal transactions and obligations exactly and punctually. He does not, however, go a step further than these legal norms and boundaries, to make concessions and condescensions. This type of person can be cold, unsympathetic and pitiless. Such a person of iniquity neither creates nor violates laws – but will take what is his own without concessions, even if his neighbor will suffer from this. Of course, in our time such legally just persons are comparatively orderly, since they fulfill their obligations honorably. For an Orthodox Christian, nevertheless, it is clear that such a relationship is insufficient, because it is not Christian but purely pagan.
Justice of Correctness: In the moral respect, this form of justice is significantly higher than the previous one. We refer to a person as correct who, in his relationships with those around him, strives to fulfill what is necessary not only according to external laws and customs, but also according to his conscience. Therefore, he treats everyone equally, and is peaceful, polite and careful with all. He willingly responds to a request for a service and tries to do everything that he has promised, often freeing other people from difficulties by this. In comparison to dryly-loyal people, it is easy and pleasant to live and work with such correct, conscientious people. Still, this is far from Christianity since such compassion and responsiveness is seldom constant and faithful to itself, and it reaches a point where it fades and dries up.
Christian justice: This is the complete type of justice – the justice of the Christian heart. Its basic, wise, clear and comprehensible principle is expressed in the Gospel by the words: “So then, whatever you wish that others would do to you, even so do you also to them...”(Mt.7:12). And the apostles’council repeated this in a negative form: “do not do to others what you do not wish done to yourself.” And so, do not bring any falsehood or lie or offense or evil into life. All people are your neighbors; do not do to them what you do not wish for yourself. Moreover, not only must we do no evil, but we must do good, according to our conscience, from the heart, being motivated by the Gospel law of love, mercy and forgiveness. If you want people to treat you sincerely, then open your heart to your neighbors. Do not be an egoist, do not consider your rights as loyal and correct people do, rather place the welfare and good of your neighbors above all your rights, according to the law of Christian love.
It very often happens in life that we are too condescending to ourselves, but are too demanding and strict to neighbors. Christian justice speaks otherwise. The Lord said, “Why do you look at the twig in your brother’s eye, but you do not feel the beam in your own eye! Hypocrite, first remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see how to remove the twig from your brother’s eye.” For this reason, ascetics of Christianity, while grieving so about their own sins, being almost pitilessly strict and demanding of themselves, were so all-forgiving and compassionate to others, covering the faults of their neighbors with kindness and love. In general, the Christian rule of life teaches us that, in such sorrowful events as arguments and misunderstanding, we must not seek to find guilt in others, but in ourselves, in our own lusts, obduracy, self-love and egoism. Thus, Christian justice demands from us condescension toward others. Even this, however, is not sufficient. It calls us to see, in every person, our own brother, a brother in Christ, a beloved creation and image of almighty God. And no matter how a man might fall, no matter how he darkens the image of God in himself by sins and vices, we must still seek the spark of God in his soul ... “Sins are sins, but the basis in man is God’s image ... Hate sin, but love the sinner,” St. John of Kronstadt once said.
Together with respect for the person of our neighbor, we must also exhibit trust in him. This is especially necessary when a person who has fallen into error comes forth with the Evangelical words, “I repent and promises correction.” How often the good intention of such a repenting person is met with mistrust and coldness, and the good desire for correction disappears, being replaced by anger and a destructive decision ... Who answers for the destruction of this soul? A sincere, loving Christian, on the contrary, joyfully receives the good volition of the neighbor, emphasizing his full trust and respect toward the repenter and, by this, often supporting and strengthening on the right path one who is still weak and faltering. Of course, it sometimes happens that a person who has promised to correct himself will, either through weakness of will or through a conscious desire to deceive, misuse the trust of the neighbor. But can this crush the feeling of trust and good-will toward his neighbor in a believing Christian love, of that love about which the apostle said that it “covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...” (1 Cor.13:7).
Using the chapter text, write a statement or two about the following terms.
Legal or, loyal justice -
Justice of Correctness -
Christian Justice -
Summarize in your own words what you have learned or gained from this lesson.
Translated by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo - used with permission - all rights reserved.
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