My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
Περί καλοσύνης (About Kindness)
PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE
"… giving all diligence, add to your faith VIRTUE, knowledge,
to KNOWLEDGE, self-control, to SELLF-CONTROL, to
perseverance, to PERSEVERANCE GODLINESS, to
godliness BROTHERLY KINDNESS, and to brotherly kindness
LOVE." (2 Peter 1:5-7).
The Orthodox Christian understands that he or she doe not stand still, but continues to grow in Christ and in knowledge. How do we attain godliness and theosis (deification)? Saint Cyril of Alexandria states, "We that are made worthy to participate in Him [the Holy Spirit] through faith in Christ are brought to perfection as participants of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and are said to be born of God, and on that account are given the title gods, not flying up to the glory above us by grace alone, but as already having God indwelling and taking lodging in us, according to what is set forth in the Prophet, ‘ I shall dwell among them and walk about in their midst’ (Leviticus 26:12; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Being renewed by God’s power, we become PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE. This does NOT mean we become divine by nature. "If we participated in God’s essence or nature, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s Divine ENERGY, described in Holy Scripture, such as GLORY, LIFE, LOVE, VIRTUE, AND POWER. We are to become like God by His grace, and truly His adopted children, but we NEVER BECOME GOD BY NATURE. According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, this TRANSFORMATION especially occurs through the Divine Eucharist, for when Christ’s Body and Blood BECOME ONE WITH OURS, WE BECOME CHRIST-BEARERS AND PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
DEIFICATION (THEOSIS) is the theological word used to describe the process by which a Christian becomes more like God. Saint Peter speaks of this process when he writes, "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… you may be partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4).
The Holy Apostle Peter makes perfectly clear that we reach participation with God through the increase of spiritual virtues, not the absence of them. God’s Kingdom is conditional upon a faith that exhibits perseverance and holiness. Virtue refers to the vigor and courage behind attaining MORAL EXCELLENCE. Love is connected TO BROTHERLY KINDNESS (affection among Christians), for love of God CANNOT BE PERFECTED EXCEPT THROUGH ONE’S NEIGHBOR. This understanding is reinforced by the Holy Apostle John who writes, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this is a commandment we have from Him: THAT HE WHO LOVES GOD MUST LOVE HIS BROTHER ALSO" (1 John 4:20).
You will agree with me when I say that spiritual people are sweet and kind people who are always gentle and loving. However, as good Christians, we believe that kindness is part of our nature and we emulate our Almighty God for He is kind. God’s kindness is unconditional, not like ours. God is not just kind to the good, but He is also kind to "the ungrateful and selfish." In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus reminds us, "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful as your Father also is merciful" (St. Luke 6:35-36).
A Christian does not question, analyze, or deliberate before he is kind to someone in need. He does not plan to be kind, he simply acts. I am sure you have heard of random kindness, when good people are kind without any forethought. There are so many opportunities to be kind to people in general and should take advantage of them. When some think of kindness, they always associate it with giving money to the poor and destitute. But being kind can also mean giving of one’s self to others. It means to be compassionate and forgiving those who have made mistakes or wrongs in their life. There may be someone who is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or committed a grave sin. Being kind to these people does not mean that one has to gloss over or ignore these sins, but that we pray for them and entreat the Lord to help them overcome their problem and forgive the sins committed by them. Being kind means offering moral support and brotherly guidance and encouragement to someone who is lost.
Everyone must avoid judging another person who has made wrong decisions in his/her life. We must never be cruel, unforgiving, condemn, demean, or even ridicule someone else. A kind word to someone who may think that no one cares goes a long way and may even save a life. Everyone needs love and understanding. A truly kind person will correct someone by encouraging him or her lovingly and gently. There is nothing worse than someone who feels that this unfortunate soul deserves what is coming to him or her and deserves no compassion or understanding. However, this attitude is totally wrong and very unchristian. That kind of person is not only insensitive, but cruel and inhuman. Saint Seraphim of Sarov says, "You cannot be too gentle, too kind." Kindness should take it seriously enough to make it a priority in our lives.
Kindness is not limited to strangers alone. We all should be kind to people who we know, including our own family members i.e., husband, wife, children, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, etc. Kindness is divine and infinite, beyond space and time. Kindness is spiritually profitable to all, for it brings an abundance of blessings to those who practice it. Kindness brings warmth and comfort to those giving it. When you or anyone commits a random act of kindness to someone that does not expect it, you can watch that person’s eyes light up with gratitude and hope. What greater reward is there than this?
"… for we are members of one another…". Our Risen Lord and God points out the true attitude of kindness and its importance when He said, "Come, you blessed of My Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM PREPARED FOR YOU FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, INASMUCH AS YOU DID FOR ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YOU DID IT TO ME.’" (St. Matthew 25:34-40).
There is absolutely nothing more that can be said after the Divine words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We truly need to take His words to heart and know that the act of kindness to our fellow man IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR SALVATION!
"Glory Be To GOD