There is a joy in recalling those moments in life when something was told to you, or some example was given to you, or something happened to you to “turn the light on” in your heart or mind. One such instance came when our merry band of spiritual seekers were working our way to the Orthodox Church.
We were blessed to have some teachers who had traveled a similar path to ours and understood the challenges we were facing. It took over a year of catechism and then many years after that for us to make this journey that led us to the Orthodox faith.
One such instance was a particularly eye-opening lesson. “God is BEING, not doing.” And in turn “You are called to be a human BEING, not a human DOING!” This really turned on a light for me. My purpose wasn’t to expend my time and energy “reforming” my behavior! No, what would reform my behavior, my choices, my priorities, my life wasn’t some program of self-help or “behavior modification” but a change of heart; an awakening of my true purpose; my true self! I was called to be so transformed at the fundamental source of my self that what motivated my behavior, my priorities, and my actions was changed from some self fulfillment to a deeper discovery of my true nature as a BEING created in God’s image to be made into His Likeness!
OK, pretty heady stuff, I know, but this had a profound effect on my understanding and it finally moved me beyond the dead end struggle to “do good” and shifted my desire to “Be like Christ!” Huge difference!
In our Gospel Lesson today we see our Lord instructing His disciples precisely with this wisdom. Listening to this wisdom will invite you to, perhaps, radically shift your attitude about just what it means to BE a follower of Jesus Christ.
Look at Matthew 10:16-22: The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The disciples of Christ were going to face some hard days ahead after the Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. They were tasked to carry the message of Good News that God has destroyed death and granted LIFE to the world. But this message was going to be seen as a threat to the “status quo!” And that was going to cause these men trouble! Isn’t it fascinating that this same Good News in its fullness is still challenging us today and causing us to face difficult circumstances when we actually practice and make our faith the top priority of our lives?
Notice the instructions: “Be Wise”; “Beware”; “do not Be anxious.” In the face of persecution; in the face of rejection, the disciples were not told to “do” something, but to “BE” something. And notice this “being” has everything to do with awareness and remembrance. Being wise assumes the wise person has not just observed facts, but allowed Truth to shape their thoughts and actions. Being “aware” of those around us isn’t about “fearing” or “hating” or “avoiding” but staying awake to those around us who AREN’T awake and all the difficulties that this lack of “awareness” can create. And not “being anxious” means that in difficult circumstances I don’t allow fear and doubt to drown out the Truth that God loves me, knows me, and will always be faithful. That awareness governs my attitudes, actions, and choices!
Today, if you are serious about your faith, know it is really creating you to “BE” like Christ and not just to reform your actions. Trying to reform your actions without the inner transformation of learning how to “BE” will always result in either half-way success or heartbreaking disappointment. You were created to “BE”! The “doing” is always the natural consequence of “BEing.” Don’t settle for some self-help pep talk or “5 easy steps to a new you!” Go beyond the merely shallow and to the real transformation offered to you through a purposeful relationship with the Uncreated God Who made you to “BE” like Him! No wonder the Lord ended this insight and wisdom with the final “be”: “he who endures to the end will BE saved!”
P.S. Thanks to all who listened to Faith Encouraged LIVE last night, and welcome to all our new readers! May God use some of this work to encourage your life to a more purposeful faith! Welcome to our growing family journeying together to live an Encouraged and purposeful Orthodox life!