“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping. Left it’s seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains within the sound of silence.” The opening lines from Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting hit from 1964 really capture the moment in American culture of both protest and grief. And there is a timelessness about these lyrics that gets my attention.
It flows from the cacophony of voices all clamoring for my attention, devotion, and embrace. And it feels like all too many time the noise makes me retreat from even attempting to communicate at all. I’m convinced this is the very plan of the darkness to silence us because of the difficulty of the task before us. Navigating this noise is at the heart, I’m convinced, is an inner struggle, war, to silence first the noise of my own soul. I can’t navigate the noise outside me until I deal with the noise inside me! I need a language to silence the “adversary” within me, if I’m ever going to deal with the adversary outside me!
Look at today’s Gospel Lesson in Luke 21:12-19:
“The Lord said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men who will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.'”
It seems the key to silencing the adversaries within and without has everything to do with endurance. No crafty rhetoric will suffice. No canned sales pitch. No lengthy training in debate tactics or apologetic skills will ever be as effective as a heart so internally prepared by love and faithfulness in the practice of the faith to overcome the broken and death gripped philosophy of a world without Christ. That world will always be suspicious of you and this suspicion will always degenerate into outright hostility at times. Just look around you today. Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet!
So, the best way to prepare for that inevitable reality is to practice the Faith, do the disciplines of the Church, learn to pray, fast, and give alms, and always strive to love God and others more than yourself. There is simply no argument strong enough to overcome love. And our love is toward God in an active practice of the wisdom of the Faith, and toward others in being an example of faithfulness to Christ. All rhetoric sounds shallow and tiny in the face of one who loves. But it would be a mistake to define love as our modern society defines it. This love that silences adversaries has everything to do with a knowing of Him Who IS truth. At the heart of this knowing is loving God first and more than anything and anyone else!
Today, you will be confronted with a world gripped by various ideologies that all have one thing in common: They get the Identity of Jesus wrong! You will work at an office where intrigue and gossip shape the politics of that place. You will be in family situations marred by dysfunction and learned behavior that only leads to co-dependency and not true communion. You may even attend a parish where loving others is difficult. The answer won’t be eternal arguments. The answer won’t be better rhetoric or more skilled communication tools. The answer will be your own interior practice of the Faith and the stubborn refusal to turn anyone you meet into an enemy, even yourself! So, practice the faith and allow your interior peace to shout the Answer to the world! That’s what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. All Culture, All Society, flows from theology. In other words, what you believe or don’t believe about God shapes how you live. Always. So what are the consequences of a faulty view of God? Sunday, on Faith Encouraged LIVE, we will talk to Fr. Josiah Trenham about his book Rock and Sand and discuss the fallout of the Protestant Reformation. That’s Sunday at 8 PM on AncientFaith.com!