Are you a Liar?

Are You a Liar?

Fr Luke A. Veronis

 You’re a liar! How would you feel if someone called you a liar? Would you get defensive? Would you get angry? Would you start criticizing the person who said this to you? Or would you be self-reflective and humbly ask yourself if maybe you are lying, either to someone else, or to yourself, or even to God.

You’re a liar! It sounds harsh but how often do we put up a façade, put on a mask to hide our true selves and try to pretend we are something or someone we really aren’t?

Think about this in relation to how we say we love God. Who here will say they love God? Anyone? Everyone? Do we all truly love God? And yet, if we say we love God, are we lying to ourselves? Or lying to God?

In my email meditation I send out every day, we are reading through the New Testament in a year and this past week we read St. John’s first epistle. In this beautiful letter, the Evangelist is calling some of the Christians of his day liars! “Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

Wow! That’s a pretty strong statement. If we don’t love our neighbor, if we don’t love those we encounter every day – people who are created in the image and likeness of God and who bear God’s divine imprint - can we then honestly say that we love God?

Saint John goes on to say, “Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 

In other words, when we don’t love another person, even one we may consider our enemy, then we are not dwelling in the love of God, we are not living in communion with Him. Saint John would even say “we don’t know God.”

Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments of our faith are to love God and to love our neighbor, to love one another. These commandments basically summarize our faith. St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris bluntly noted, “Everything else, even the commandments contained in the Beatitudes, is merely an elaboration of these two commandments of love, which contain within themselves the totality of Christ’s “Good News.” Christ’s earthly life is nothing other than the revelation of the mystery of the love of God and the love of man. These are, in sum, not only the true but the only measure of all things… Destroy either one of them and you destroy truth as a whole.”

This is what John the Evangelist is trying to say as well. If we destroy the love we have for our brother or sister, if we choose not to love the person we see in our every day life, we are destroying the truth of Christ’s universal love. We lie when we say we love God. For God is love and if His divine love fills our hearts, then we cannot but love one another. Love radiates from those who dwell in God’s love, for everyone who chooses to live in communion with Him.

Unfortunately, our communion with people too often passes through a level of an earthly encounter – we see a person as a beggar, as a pathetic or broken soul, as a political opponent, or we place some other label on others that separates them from us. We view people solely from this earthly perspective and forget the authentic mystical communion we can have when we see each person as a child of God, created in His image.

St. Maria highlights that, “We are given a perfectly real possibility to commune with Christ when we commune with our brother or sister.”

Communing with the stranger is communing with God; reaching out in love to the outcast is reaching out to our Lord in love; welcoming the immigrant or foreigner is welcoming Christ; helping the marginalized is offering a hand to God Himself; showing love to the least of our brothers and sisters is showing that we truly love God. Communion with the other, no matter how different and strange they may appear equates to communing with Jesus Himself!

At the Last Judgement, Mother Maria reminds us, that for every poor, hungry, and imprisoned person the Savior says “I”; I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison. “Imagine that our Lord puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need. Whenever we turn our spiritual world toward the spiritual world of another person, we encounter an awesome and inspiring mystery …. We come into contact with the true image of God in others, with the very icon of God incarnate in the world… We need to venerate the image of God in our brother and sister… The divine image may be veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil…. But we will engage in a battle with the devil for the sake of the divine image in the other person.”

Our love of God needs to equal our love for the other, otherwise we are liars in what we claim as His children. Yes, it may be easier to say we love God because we can portray in our minds whatever image of God we want. But when we see our neighbor, we see them in their brokenness, their ugliness, their sinfulness and we are tempted, to judge, despise, and then turn away from them.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom warns of this extreme danger: “Unless we look at a person and see the God-given beauty there is in a person, we can contribute nothing to them. One does not love a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty by loving them.”

If we say we love God yet don’t love this brother or sister, we are liars! We are lying to ourselves and we are lying to God. This sounds harsh and it may be very blunt. Yet St John the Evangelist is helping us get beyond our self-deception and come to truly understand what divine love is all about. God is love. God loves each one of us. And God expects us to share His love with everyone we encounter. If we don’t love the other, we are liars!

Are You a Liar?

Fr Luke A. Veronis

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