Isaac Newton once said “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” How I resonate with that. Simplicity is the enemy of confusion and chaos. I’ll never forget the story of a Third world visitor to the US being overwhelmed by her first trip to an American grocery store. This precious woman broke down in tears, not at the abundance, but at the awesome struggle of sorting out this assault on her senses of color, diversity, and choice. She responded to her hostess that “this was too much freedom!”
However, we do live in a complex world, a nuanced world, and a very confusing world. That is our reality and there is no good to come from some escape or pretending this isn’t reality. At the same time, we Orthodox Christians are called away from chaos, confusion, and a divided life. We are called to peace, simplicity, and joy. How do we get from one place to the other?
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40:
BRETHREN, when you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each one of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another by sitting by, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. But God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only one it has reached? If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order.
St. Paul deals with both practical and spiritual concerns here with our dear Corinthians, and reading this you may be confused at some of his language. I can already see the comments coming in about “women should keep silence in the churches” and “let there be only two or three, at the most” speak in tongues or prophesy.
And there are whole books written that deal with these subjects. Suffice it to say Paul isn’t saying anything the Corinthians, or we, didn’t need to hear!
But our devotionals are about encouraging us to look deeper and so we will, with God’s help. You see, our enemy is confusion and whatever feeds confusion takes us away from the simplicity of a full and purposeful life in Jesus Christ.
So, what enemies does Paul reveal here? First, the enemy of simplicity and the friend of confusion is self centeredness. I want my gift seen. I want my question answered right now. That spirit feeds confusion in a community and brings chaos, as it did in the Corinthian Church. This spirit that says “it has to be my way right now” is antithetical to the Orthodox Christian faith. But the opposite isn’t “well, I’ll just be some doormat and never say anything.” The temptation to fall off the narrow road on the other side is just as chaos causing as self centeredness. In fact, it’s really just another form of self centeredness! the key is loving submission to one another and a willingness to do the hard work of communion together.
Another enemy of simplicity and peace is the “us vs. them” mentality. It’s the men against the women. It’s the prophets against the priests. It’s the extroverts against the introverts. All these false dichotomies war against peace and simplicity! We aren’t at war with one another. Only the enemy of confusion makes it seem so!
Today, what are the enemies of peace and simplicity in your life? Where is confusion feeding fear and isolation in your heart? Start today to ask the God of peace to reveal those places in your life and press deeper into being Orthodox on Purpose!