Secrets and intrigue seem to make for good movies and great gossip. The recent uproar about our own government and it’s efforts in internal spying continues to generate much interest and fascination. There’s even a story out now that a recent person who shared a great many “secrets” concerning the NSA work has a “doomsday” file he’s holding on to to insure he isn’t arrested or attacked!
Hollywood is just screaming for the rights to this story!
Why is that? Because we humans are fascinated by intrigue and secrets! We love to believe the worst about others, because if they are really bad then maybe we aren’t so bad. We love telling this or that story and our brains “fill in” the missing information with juicy speculations that make the story even more exciting!
Unfortunately, this all too human trait spills into our everyday relationships. We are too often too quick to believe the worst about someone. We seem to enjoy the telling of this or that story. Why, we will even rename our gossip as a “prayer request” to dress up our salacious curiosity with a religious veneer and respectability.
But this spiritual cancer of gossip and ill feelings toward others is driven by an internal illness, the illness of our own fear and pride. It has been my experience that when I choose to believe the worst about someone else it is mainly motivated by my own desire to justify myself. And then, being caught up in this weakness creates divisions that affect relationships far and wide. Instead of seeing to my own sins first and foremost, I resort to focusing on the real or imagined “sins” of others all in an attempt to let myself off the hook.
This pattern of behavior always leads to broken relationships and hard feelings and even imagined slights that the other person doesn’t even know he’s committed! But that is always the evil one’s intent – to strain relationships, break the bonds of friendship, and keep us suspicious of each other’s motives. That way we never fully enter into the Christian communion we were created to know and see relationships healed. This is the stuff that generational grudges are made of!
Just look at today’s Gospel Lesson. Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of His day about just Who He thinks He is. They are indignant that this nobody preacher from the sticks is causing them so much trouble and even the people are listening to Him more that they listen to these “leaders.” Let’s look at this passage: “At that time, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, ‘Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.’ He answered them, ‘I also will ask you a question; now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?’ And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know whence it was. And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.'”
Our Lord sees right through their “too smart for their own good” attitudes and He deals with them accordingly. He knows their jealousy and their own fear drives their behavior, and that is never the foundation of a fruitful interaction. So He shuts them down by revealing their own poverty and fear. And it works.
He knows they are in no place to actually hear the truth that will set them free so He doesn’t add to their condemnation by engaging them further. in His love for them He cuts off discussion before it can draw them closer to self-condemnation.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, you and I may be in situations where the pain and wounds of broken relationships are right in our face. We will be in family situations and around friends (and maybe even former friends) where the challenge of these fractured relationships are still fresh or even long standing. In these times, we are invited by our Lord to be gentle with even our enemies and patient with those who are their own worst enemies. By the way, that includes yourself as well!
Avoid filling in the blanks of information you don’t actually know about someone else. Avoid the all too easy default attitude of believing the worst about someone else. Take the high road and assume forgiveness, mercy, and love. By doing so, you set yourself free to love even those who don’t love you. You set yourself free to focus on your own sins and ignore the sins of those around you. You become a source of healing and peace in tense situations instead of adding to the pain and drama of any family situation or even church function.
At this time of year, when it’s so easy to let your mind run away with you, capture your thoughts and bring them into captivity to Christ and allow His grace to make this a time of real time of thanksgiving and gratitude. You can’t be free to be grateful if your heart and mind are filled with assumptions and intrigue. Be free from all this drama by letting it go and live in the peace of Christ.
From Fr. Barnabas and Orthodox on Purpose, we wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving holiday and a Christ-filled gathering of family and friends free to love one another as Christ loves us all.