“You’re making a spectacle of yourself!” I remember when I first heard those words from a relative. You see, I’d just discovered that I could make people laugh, and I remember feeling the thrill at that ability. So, I started being a clown all the time. But an uncle, watching me carry on as a just turned 13 year old boy warned me about always trying to be the center of attention!
And those turned out to be wise words to me. It was years later that I learned that trying to be the center of attention was a sure way of being ignored! Just simply be who you are and proper attention will be paid by the One Who’s attention matters most!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 4:9-16:
BRETHREN, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
St. Paul warns the Corinthians that the message of Jesus, the radical message of physical resurrection and eternal life in Christ Who is God in the Flesh, makes the apostles “a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.” What an interesting phrase, don’t you think?
The Christian Message of physical resurrection and God becoming flesh, taking on and resurrecting our common human flesh and then ascending with that very flesh into eternity to sit at the right hand of God, the Father, is unique to the Christian faith. In fact, of the three faiths that claim Abrahamic origins, it is only Christianity that has the message of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and Ascension of deified human flesh into heaven. It’s downright scandalous! It doesn’t make any sense! It’s impossible to believe! And yet, this is the Orthodox Christian Faith. If this is the Faith that established the universe, then this is going to be a spectacle! And it is. Of the world’s religions, only Orthodox Christianity dares to make God more than a lonely “despot,” a cruel Judge, or a distant dotting “heavenly grandfather.” The Orthodox Christian Faith insists the Uncreated stepped into His creation in a Person, lived, died a cruel death, and then raised the corpse killed on that “great” Friday to not just a revived physical body but a deified physical body that He takes with Him into the heavens! Scandalous! Ridiculous! Outrageous! Yes, I know, but true, nonetheless!
And this message meant that both men and angels were amazed at the claims of the Christian Faith. Men, because who could have imagined that the Creator would stoop so low as to actually come among us, value us as much as He does, and then battle with our great enemy – mortality – to the death of death and then raise us with Himself! Angels, both fallen and glorified, because they had a unique relationship with the Creator different than physical men and they marvel at His redemption of our fickle race. But this wasn’t done to amaze as much as to display the extent of God’s love, God’s Purpose, and God’s Plan for we humans. This cosmic message puts a powerful strength in the hearts of believers by helping us keep perspective when life is rough and that just amplifies the spectacle of the message all the more.
No wonder St. Paul tells these believers all this and ends the passage by telling them to be imitators of the apostle’s perseverance. This spectacle of a Church being primarily a family with a “father” and a “father” that endures despite hardship only makes the claims of this radical faith all the more believable!
Today, does your faith make a spectacle of itself through your faithfulness to it? I’m not talking about the brash show that browbeats others and uses faith as a weapon to beat people, but a faith that quietly speaks for itself in your choices, your behavior, and your endurance! That’s the faith that the world needs to see, someone who is Orthodox on Purpose!