The kindness and the love of God (Titus 3:4)

We are speaking of this beautiful Gospel, the parable of the good Samaritan. All Gospel parables are beautiful, because through each of them the Lord invites us to be like Him. When He tells us to be a certain way, He does so because that is how He is, and He invites us to follow Him. When He says, “Love your enemies”, He says this because this is what He does, and He invites us to be like Him. He is in the entirety of the Gospel, and calls us to imitate Him, to be deified. This is why it is hard for us. Because this earth, this clay that we are, must behave like God, and it is not easy.

Starting from Origen, all the Holy Fathers interpreted the Good Samaritan to be the Lord Himself, the only One who could heal the wounds of the one who had fallen victim to the robbers. That is, the priests and Levites could have brought some consolation, but they would not have been able to heal him. Just as nobody can heal the wounds of man except for Christ. People are searching all over – in all the religions, in all the psychological movements, but nobody can heal man’s heart except He Who made it: the Lord. The remedies are not very sweet. But they are efficient. Yes, He is the good Samaritan.

We wish to speak of the good Samaritan, about this feature of goodness of the Savior. This goodness is a condition without which not a single person can be saved. Thankfully He is good beyond any doubt on our part. Even in the beginning, when we struggle much against our sins and try to be rid of them, we have need of this goodness. As one father said, “pure goodness”, that is, limitless. St. Symeon the New Theologian says something which has helped me a lot personally, “If the Savior would show the slightest trace of reproach when a sinner comes to Him with repentance, nobody would be saved”. This is what one of the greatest saints of the Church says, a saint who experienced a fall, but also getting up.

Therefore, we cannot raise ourselves out of sin if we do not feel God’s goodness. Thankfully, this is how He is: good. We can count on that. We speak of His goodness and its effect on our hearts, because that is what captivates us, His goodness and love. The text of St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus is very beautiful: “Remind them [the Christians] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (3:1-2). We have here, in these two verses, a mini-portrait of the Christian. And he continues with verse 3: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” – a mini-portrait of the old man. The next verse shows what in particular the transformation from the old man into the new produces: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”

This is what enables the transformation from the evil man – given over to passions and sins, passionate, jealous – into the good man, peaceable, gentle towards all: the kindness and the love of God toward man. In general, if you wish to change a man, show him kindness and love. Only in this way can a person change. Not by force, not because they need to, but by these two, which penetrate deep into his heart and effect transformation. Because in general, people wish to change, but they cannot, because they are bound by many chains. This love for mankind of the Savior effects the transfiguration of the old man of sin and passions to the new man according to Christ’s image.

The kindness and love of God are captivating. And being touched by His kindness, we try to follow Him.

If all are so good and sweet, then “why is our salvation so hard?” Because He is God. And for us, being creatures, and still sinful creatures, it is very hard for us to follow Him, to reach His kindness and love. Because love is not easily obtained. One must toil. This is what I learned at the monastery in the beginning. Love is beautiful, but it involves much sweat. Pilgrims come to the monastery, and it is necessary to prepare the meal for them, etc. Yes, they have felt the love. But after they’re done, you stay behind and clean up after them. Love on this earth requires sacrifice. You must toil, you must sacrifice yourself. Well, this sacrifice, for the clay that loves itself, is difficult. This is why salvation seems hard for us.

But even here we have a sort of shortcut, for He told us: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He gave us a commandment to be like Him, but He does not leave us alone, but is next to us and teaches us: “Look, dear, this is how you love, this is how you forgive, this is how you turn the other cheek. Look at Me and do the same.” It is hard for us to learn to love. Love means to come out from yourself. This is hard for created man. For God, this is how He is. But for us, to learn it is not easy. That is why St. Paisios the Athonite says, “the road from me to you” is what we need to learn. But it is hard.

We were born in “me” and we receive so much attention and so many comforts. We must, however, leave everything behind and go toward “you”. This is another language already. Here we get lost and we get tired, and sigh. It is hard for us to deny ourselves. But this is the only road to love. In fact, if it were not for the Savior and His Saints who show us how to fulfill His words, we would not know what true kindness or true love are. It would be just a matter of words and façades. Just as it is with the television. Once we’ve turned off the television and it’s over, we go back to the way we are, “full of evil, of jealousies, of passions”. For this is how the man who loves himself ends up – being hated and hating. This is the portrait of the person without Christ.

I wished to highlight the kindness of the Savior a little. The difficulty comes when we try to replicate it. This is how we arrive to the cross, which has two functions. The first, as St. Sophrony Sakharov says, “From Golgotha onwards, love is manifested through suffering”. If somebody suffers for you, it is clear that they love you, just as we know that the Lord loves us. The second function is the cleansing of the passions. But with the condition that we know that we are doing it for Him. And with His help it will be easier for us. But with the emphasis on God’s kindness, which is primary. Without this aspect Christianity does not exist and there is no point in speaking of salvation. If we do not feel His kindness, we should stop and reflect a little. We are surrounded by it; we bathe in God’s kindness. Yet we must also feel it.