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.
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.
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. To make a long story short: the followers of Jesus will be treated like the world treated Jesus. To expect anything else is simply a fantasy. And the reason the followers of Jesus will be treated like the world treated Jesus is based on one, simple, but profound, reality:
“But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:21) Read the whole message in John 15:17-27;16:1-2.
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 Him as He is.
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.
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. The Good News is God wants to be known and He has even wrapped Himself in our flesh to make that knowledge possible and intimate. Today, seek Him. He wants to be found by you! He wants you to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Did you know a growing number of African-Americans are discovering the Orthodox faith? That was our subject last night on Faith Encouraged LIVE. My special guest, Fr. Moses Berry, shared his story of coming to Orthodoxy and why the natural Christian faith of Orthodoxy is so healing! You can hear the whole program at AncientFaith.com