Steadfastness and Love in Christian Faith
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
STEADFASTNESS nearly always exist in the mystery of love. In a practical illustration of faith Christ says: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”1 This reciprocal steadfastness is through the spirit because the flesh and the blood are an expression of Christ Himself, and of the essence of the truth according to Christ’s words: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”2 Christ reveals the meaning of that with His words: “so he who eats me will live because of me.”3
Steadfastness is the fruit of love. Reciprocal steadfastness begins with us: “Abide in me.”4 And “abide in my love.”5 In consequence we are required to remain steadfast in the Lord for Him to remain steadfast in us. As we have said that steadfastness is the fruit of love yet the Lord’s love is as the Lord says: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me”6, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word.”7
Keeping the word is not with thoughts but by applying the Lord’s commandments. Keeping the Lord’s commandments is not by working merely according to man’s will, but is a response to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Because it is the Holy Spirit working in us, the Lord is Himself working in us as the Bible says: “for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”8 The Bible thus opens our eyes to understand and be sure that adhering to God provides us with the will and work for him. For that reason we are not surprised at the saints’ withdrawal to pray and their heartfelt outpour to express the love of God and Christ.
Reciprocal steadfastness is the fruit of reciprocal love. But as we have said that man is the one responsible to begin: “Abide in me, and I in you”9 and “he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him”10 it is for that reason that Christ sent the Holy spirit from the Father to lead us to the fulfillment of adherence to Christ through reciprocal steadfastness and love. Man has no excuse for not answering the Spirit, because He advocates steadfastness and love it being the work of the Holy Spirit living in us. Christ consequently says being sure of His words: “And his commandments are not burdensome”11 because He knows that the driving power in doing the commandment is not our domain but is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. Every believer following the Lord’s way using as example the forefathers who lived their virtuous lives and asceticism and elevated love for Christ testify it. Steadfastness and love for Christ are very clearly revealed in the lives of the saints and forefather who became witnesses of the Gospel’s truth. Their lives became a practical vocal example of following Christ full-heartedly.
Paul the Apostle describes the person who stands steadfastly in Christ as one who walks among stumbling blocks holding on to eternal life: “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”12 It is as if the Apostle Paul imagines Christian Faith and steadfastness in the Lord a ladder with its base on earth while supported at the top on the eternal life. He who has been invited to become a follower of Christ holding on to Him has to climb that ladder step by step looking upwards from where comes the help and power consolidating his hands on the ladder, ignoring the world that pulls him down.
A young English martyr named Charles Colson who was a drummer in the British army describes the following event of when he wanted to secretly enter China to preach Christianity. The guardsmen caught him and wanted to kill him so he cried asking for only five minutes to pray before being killed. He chanted while kneeling saying:
“I am but a stranger on earth, and heaven is my country,
My state of alienation must inevitably end and I will go to my country.”
The guard was moved and left him free to enter and preach.
The truth is that the reason which makes us remain steadfast in Christ, holding on to the eternal life is this world’s vanity, the catastrophes and machinations reserved in it for every one who is tempted by the world and attracted to its deceptions. Thus it is either treachery along with catastrophes or the truth with eternal joy.
The truth also is that the difficulties of man struggling along the spirit, preserving himself from sin in this world and bearing its troubles is a thousand times easier than this world’s troubles with life.
Ask the Lord for He is there.
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