Life really is that simple. Our behavior is either fostering life or death in our lives and in the lives of others. It really is that simple and really THAT profound. It reminds me of the stark confrontation Moses set before the Israelites in Deuteronomy when he was exhorting them not to abandon God in their homeland. Moses thunders to the people: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
And the Lord Jesus saying in John’s Gospel: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Life is consistent with God and death is not. Death is an enemy. Death is the consequence of a broken connection with God. Death is defeated by Jesus at His bodily resurrection. Death is not what was intended for we humans by God. Not at all! And death, in all it’s debilitating forms, is inconsistent with the life of Christ! No wonder at Pascha we join St. John Chrysostom in declaring death and hell “vexed” because it is destroyed!
Look at our Lesson today in 2 Corinthians 4:6-15:
Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
And yet St. Paul tells us that life is at work in us but death in him. What does he mean? Simply that his ministry is exposing him to persecution, betrayal, affliction, and troubles. But all these temporary difficulties, while they certainly appear as unpleasant and even as a sign of God’s “punishment” St. Paul sees behind all that shallow interpretation to the reality that all his suffering is increasing the “life” of Christ in his spiritual children. In fact, he even says that the death of Jesus, a shameful and public tortured death, is what he is continuing to experience as the Lord’s Apostle to the Gentiles.
But, just as the Lord’s suffering and death destroyed the power of death, so, too, St. Paul’s suffering and troubles were allowing the grace of God to show clearly in Paul’s life because the strength the Lord granted him to face his struggles and experience them as both meaningful and a blessing to the Church! St. Paul was able, by God’s grace, to overcome the temptation of despair in the midst of trouble to see clearly that this very grace was making clear to everyone that Paul was right about the Lord Jesus and His power over death! Grace was being extended to “more and more people” precisely because of Paul’s suffering! How frustrating for the evil one when his best attacks are actually used against his kingdom of darkness to encourage others to stay faithful to Christ!
Today, you, too, hold “this treasure in earthen vessels” the vessel of your life right now. And, like St. Paul, you are invited to allow God’s grace to fill up your own suffering with meaning, hope, and life! As you refuse to forget the Lord’s victory over death, you display in your own life the Life He has granted the world through His Life and you show clearly that you are choosing life and not death; light and not darkness. You are being Orthodox on Purpose no matter what!