And as ye would that men should do to you,
do ye also to them likewise
What wise, lofty, saving, and truly divine teachings and commandments! But how badly our daily life conforms to them! The Lord teaches us to treat people as we would have people treat us; that is, simple-heartedly, well-wishing, sympathetically, patiently. He set our own selves as a measuring stick for our relationship to other people; and this measuring stick, this scope, is love. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church (Eph. 5, 29). But in community it often happens to the contrary—peoples' relationships to each other are often quite wrong, not distinguished by a spirit of simplicity and sincerity, love and good will, love of peace, meekness and condescension, purity and holiness, sympathy and compassion, and Christian patience. They are often distinguished by a spirit of insincerity and duplicity, coldness and haughtiness, deceit and ill will, or impurity and sensuality, low egoism and self-seeking.
The root, cause, or source of one or another way of treating one person or another is within a person's heart. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things (Mt. 12:35). This occurs either from his natural character traits, or from an either good or bad upbringing; from various passions, inclinations, or habits—for example, of seeking certain pleasures; from either good or bad examples; from life circumstances; from more or less comfortable material standards; from the milieu in which he lives or his standing in society; from various life lessons or trials; and finally, from how much he has been or not been penetrated with the Gospel spirit of Christ.
Thus, the measuring stick of relationships to others is simplicity and sincerity, good will, and love for all—this is the best side of relationships to others. But not rarely, the nature of relationships to others is cunning, suspicion, dislike, rudeness, envy, extreme selfishness, self-seeking, partiality, vanity, ambition, vainglory, sensuality, or extreme haughtiness; that is, a high opinion of one's self, which seeks to humiliate others.
In general, we can observe more insincere relationships amongst people than pure-hearted ones, because the whole heart is infected to a greater or lesser extent with the impurity of sin, covered with the corruption of the passions. For, Who can say: My heart is clean, I am pure from sin? (Prov. 20:9), say the Scriptures. Therefore, some words are smooth as oil, and yet they are poison darts. Thus, according to the teaching of our Savior, the measure of our relationships to others should be correct love for our own selves. As we would like others to treat us, so shall we treat them—that it, simply, pure-heartedly, meekly, lovingly, trustingly, condescendingly, sympathetically, patiently.
The Lord offers Himself as an example to us, and we should ceaselessly look at it and learn from it. Learn of me, He says, because I am meek, and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29). The Apostle Paul says, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). He also teaches, Let love be without dissimulation... Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another… Distributing to the necessity of saints (that is, to you brother Christians); given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink… Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers (Rom. 12:9-21; 13:1).
These are the rules of behavior for Christians amongst themselves, which the Apostle Paul wrote for us in his epistle to the Romans. Each of us is equally obligated to uphold them. Where is the highest motivation for us to treat each other this way? In the image and likeness of God, in which man is created, and in that we are the children of the One Heavenly Father, members of Christ, branches of the one vine of Christ, sheep of His one rational flock. We partake of the one life bread of Christ, and drink from the same chalice of His divine Blood. We have drunk of the same Holy Spirit, and we await the same incorruptible, eternal inheritance. This is our motivation for mutual, sincere, loving relationships!
For if ye love them which love you, says the Lord in today's Gospel, what thank have ye? for sinners (that is, idolaters), 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; that is, as long as they receive benefit, which means that they love only themselves—for they only love in their benefactors the benefit they receive.
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, and in this case you love only yourself, your own gain, and not the benefit of others, and do not satisfy his need perfectly. If Christians do not fulfill these natural virtues, then they are much worse than pagans, who do by nature the things contained in the law (Rom. 2:14), not having the power of grace; while Christians, as we know, have received all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Pet. 1:3), for the fulfillment of all Christ's commandments.
Look, Christian, into the mirror of the divine commandments and know what you are. Do you at least love those who love you? Or do you not even love them at times? Do you do good to your benefactors? Do you lend to those who pay back loans? Do you tend towards self-interest and lack of trust? Many want to be satisfied with love only for those who love them, and do not want to force themselves to love those who hate them, or who have animosity toward them. O Christian, with such pagan love you will stand ashamed at the Last Judgment. But love ye your enemies, the Lord continues, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. It would seem that our Savior is giving us a difficult task by commanding us to love our enemies and to do good to them. The corrupt human heart says, "This is impossible, this is against nature and common sense!" It is really only difficult for the corrupted heart, a heart not renewed or strengthened by grace. But for the heart reborn by grace, this is an easy thing, for the Lord helps the believer in everything; and we can see many such examples in the lives of the saints.
But to whom should we give, not expecting anything in return? To poor people, those of lowly station, for whom repaying a debt is extremely difficult and often impossible. But wealthy people should always repay their debts; lenders do not sin if they seek repayment of debt by honest means or lawsuits. Otherwise, this would be harmful pandering to unconscionable people, who think to get rich easily at the expense of others. Be ye therefore merciful, says the Lord, as your Father also is merciful. The Lord requires mercy from Christians, His children by grace, like unto the mercy of the Heavenly Father. Truly, if Christians are the children of the Heavenly Father, bought with the blood of His Son, and they are promised incorruptible, eternal blessedness in the Heavenly Homeland, then they should manifest love and mercy in this life towards their brothers, corresponding in greatness to the love and mercy which God has toward them, and to the boundless greatness of incorruptible blessings, the great honor and heavenly crowns that have been promised them.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another, says the holy Apostle John the Theologian (1 Jn. 4:11). Amen.