Christ is risen!
What is it about close relationships that either blind you or enlighten you? What I mean is, I’ve known folks who were so close to someone else that they were absolutely blind to that other person’s faults. I’ve seen it get so bad that the two people were so enmeshed with each other that they really were their own worst enemies when it came to other friends and relatives. There’s nothing like codependency to make for emotional slavery. Remember yesterday’s devotional?
But then again, I’ve seen two people be so close and so connected, but with a healthy self-image and honest self knowledge, that their relationship serves as a model of how two folks can really know one another and still be themselves.
The contrast between enmeshed relationships and healthy relationships is staggering. They really are as different as night and day.
But that makes perfect sense in light of the reality that God has created us for healthy and mature communion with Him and each other. That kind of communion gives life to all who experience it. It affirms and draws out the unique aspects of each person in such a communion. This kind of mutual love, mutual knowledge, and mutual understanding creates peace, safety, honesty, and even confrontation without shame or lack of dignity. And all this is so because God made us in His image to be made into His likeness, and He knows Himself as Persons in Communion.
And this Divine Self-awareness is vital to our own self-awareness BECAUSE we are created in His Image! No wonder the heart of Orthodoxy IS Communion, and ALL of Orthodoxy is about healing us so that we can BE in Communion with God and each other!
But all too often we choose whether to submit to the slavery of codependency or to continue the labor to experience the authentic communion God intended for us all.
In today’s Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus gives His disciples good direction concerning how the world will treat them after He’s ascended into heaven. Read John 15:17-27;16:1-2:
The Lord said to his disciples: “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
There are life-altering consequences from not knowing God. Of course, these consequences have been clearly declared by preachers for centuries. In our modern day, we have lost so much of our Christian birthright and connection to the wisdom of the centuries that these consequences have been reduced to the cartoonish “fire and brimstone” sermons meant to emotionally manipulate congregations rather than enlighten and woo them to God. The end results is that too many people think of God as some kind of cosmic terrorist rather than knowing His as He is. Again, the great counterfeiter at work.
But the greatest consequence of this lack of knowing God is a profound self-confusion about my own identity. And that, my dearest, is a confusion that ripples through every relationship I will ever have. It is an inner blindness that guarantees a lack of spiritual maturity, lack of consistent peace, and the immature temptation to reduce all my relationships into what I can get for myself out of my connections. In other words, it is the trap of counterfeit communion. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, is sent by the Lord to teach us, lead us, and shape us away from this counterfeit and towards authentic communion by training us in the community of the Church how to BE in communion.
However, no one should be under the delusion that authentic communion is either easy or “comfortable” or even “pleasant.” In fact, Jesus promises that this world divorced from Him is so dysfunctional that they will HATE those who are healed and enter into communion precisely because their healing and wholeness reveals the brokenness of this world! No one gripped by darkness enjoys the LIGHT being turned on!
Today, your first step, your first priority if you desire healthy relationships in your life, is to expend your best energy, make your first priority, your relationship with God. All other relationships in your life are, to varying degrees, an icon of that primary relationship. The effort you give to knowing God, loving God, and coming to know yourself through that primary relationship will impact every relationship you have. Today, prioritizing your relationship with God is the indispensable first step in having a good relationship with your spouse, your children, your family, friends, and co-workers. The Good News is God has sent you the Counselor to the New Community of the Church to make all this possible in your life!
P.S. Please pray for Fr. Barnabas today. He is traveling to Chicago to attend the annual training as a Frontliner First Responder for the International Orthodox Christian Charities. Fr. Barnabas has been a member of the Frontliners team for IOCC since seminary and they go annually for continued education. This is a wonderful ministry of IOCC. Check it out!