Christ is risen!
A few years ago a book came out titled “The Hard Sayings of Jesus.” The book attempted to tackle some of the more difficult passages attributed to Christ in His earthly ministry. You know, sayings like “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (St. Luke 14:26) Stuff like that. A hard saying indeed!
What are we to make of these scriptures and how do we deal with the implications of their teaching? Some have taken the coward’s way out and simply declared that Jesus couldn’t have said anything like this, so it is an error in the Gospels. Others have attempted to soften the blow of such teachings by insisting that we simply don’t appreciate the idioms of the culture Jesus lived in, and He didn’t mean it the way it sounds.
But the father of the Church take a decidedly more courageous approach. They take Christ at His word and face these hard sayings head on. Brave and honest, that’s the path of the Orthodox faith.
I say all this to ask some hard questions of my own today. But not of you, of myself. Do I face this demanding faith with courage and honesty? Do I engage my faith purposefully and forthrightly? Am I willing to insist of myself a robust application of the wisdom of the faith, or am I busy using my energies trying to figure out the “loopholes” to obedience?
If I am actually going to be “Orthodox on Purpose” I have to constantly struggle with the admittedly common temptation to try and “soften” this demanding faith. I have to hold myself accountable.
But here’s where it gets tricky, my dearest. The fathers of the faith demand that I hold myself AND NO ONE ELSE accountable. I am called to be strict with myself and gentle with everyone else. That way self-righteousness has no room in my heart. Nothing destroys true piety and devotion quicker than a judgemental heart. I am called to simply not notice anyone else’s sins but my own!
What if we all applied this wisdom to our lives? What would your parish look like if everyone was both Orthodox on Purpose AND noticed only their own sins and not the sins of their brother? What would a parish, a home, a community, look like if that were true?
As we approach the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, let us be busy meeting Christ and allowing Him to tell us everything we ever did. Let us focus on grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, and forever take the oxygen from the destructive acts of judgmentalism, anger, hatred, grudges, and fear.
My dearest, let us see to our own sins.