“For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25)—here is the heart of Orthodox ethics, Christos Yannaras passionately avers. This may come as a surprise to many. Surely ethics has to do with right and wrong and the acquisition of virtue, whereas this dominical counsel speaks to the spiritual life. Yet Yannaras refuses to separate the spiritual and ethical. “Morality reveals what man is in principle, as the image of God,” he writes, “but also what he becomes through the adventure of his freedom: a being transformed, or ‘in the likeness’ of God” (The Freedom of Morality, p. 24). It’s not that Yannaras does not recognize moral obligation; but he refuses to reduce ethics to law: “All the exhortations and commandments in the Gospel have as their goal love, that dynamic transcendence of egocentric individuality whereby the image of God in Trinity is realized in the human being” (p. 56). The Son of God summons humanity to a far deeper, more radical conversion:
The first thing that Jesus preaches is a message of repentance, because this is the precondition for participation in the Kingdom of God, in the Church. … Every page of the Gospels stresses the need for repentance and faith—the need to escape from imprisonment in our own egocentricity and to trust in God, giving ourselves over to Him.