“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” Alfred A. Montapert
And, that, my dearest, is the reality that maturity presents us all. This reminds me of King David and his complaint in Psalm 72 (73) about the wicked and their seemingly happy lives without any negative consequences of their evil actions. David was furious that he, practicing righteousness, was being hunted and persecuted, while evil men prospered. But then David went into the sanctuary of the Lord and he says “When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.” King David came to understand that no one escapes the consequences of their actions. Ultimately, all our chickens will come home to roost! (Don’t you just love that imagery?)
So, why do we seem to be so blind and deaf to this truth we learn over and over again? Why do we attempt to avoid the consequences of bad choices and why do we seem to never learn that certain behaviors lead to certain conclusions? Even the best of us have blind spots in our lives that keep us stumbling over this or that consequence. The Faith reveals to us that our blindness flows from a dual place: fear and pride. And these twin fountains of foolishness feed each other. Just look in your own life at places where you regularly stumble and see if these two culprits aren’t lurking in the background somewhere! To be sure, these sources of stumbling plague us all to one degree or another. The remedy to this plague are the spiritual disciplines of the Faith that strengthen our will to both see these twins coming AND provide us the humility and courage to avoid them.
Just look at our Gospel Lesson for today: At that time, the Pharisees came up to Jesus and in order to test him, asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
I always love religious questions asked specifically to get permission to do what the questioner knows he shouldn’t do! It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic! The Pharisees wanted human relationships reduced to what is “lawful.” And it is specifically here that their fatal flaw is revealed. Reducing life to “laws” or “regulations” always misses the point and feeds both fear and pride. Always. So, the Lord deals with them from their own flawed position to show them the stark consequences of life reduced to mere rule-keeping. You want the rules? OK, but the consequences of your reduction will mean living with the reality of that smallness!
So why this scripture today? Why this focus on consequences and the shallowness of reducing life to what is “lawful”, especially this close to the celebration of the Nativity? Because, dearest, God is about to step into His creation and set in motion the redemption of all the universe with all the consequences of His Incarnation clearly before Him. He is about to set all things right by coming among us as one of us to destroy the power of fear and pride forever and break the chains of spiritual slavery over all humanity. He is about to grant His creation the path to forgiveness and freedom. He is about to offer humanity the path to undo all the negative consequences of the bad choices of every human who has, or ever will, live. He is going to, in our human flesh, fight and conquer all the enemies of humanity and grant us spiritual freedom if only we will stop hiding from the consequences of our actions and humbly confess our need to be free.
Today, are you trying to hide from the consequences of your actions? Are you still enslaved to fear and pride in constantly tripping over the same mistakes over and over again? Do you catch yourself asking “What are the rules” so you can do just enough to feel good about yourself? Are you ready to grow up beyond these childish ways to the spiritual maturity of humble freedom? Then I invite you to embrace the First Coming of our Lord in the flesh as your wake up call to spiritual maturity and joy. This Christmas, let’s abandon the slavery of negative consequences brought on by short-sighted living and fully embrace the freedom and joy of God’s loving wisdom for our lives by living a purposeful Orthodox Christian life! Start by going to church!
P.S. Sunday’s Faith Encouraged LIVE is going to be about the Saints and why our devotion to their memory aids our own spiritual maturity! That’s this Sunday at 8PM on AncientFaith.com. This will be our last show for 2014 so I hope you get the chance to join us. Also, don’t forget, our daily devotionals will be taking a break between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 to do some upgrades to our website and prepare for the exciting news for 2015. Thank you all for your encouragements and your prayers.