Christ is risen!
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” and yet we humans love making excuses. One of the lessons I am trying to teach my daughters is when I have to correct them not to immediately make an excuse for their behavior: “She made me do it” “I didn’t mean to” I’m sure you’ve heard them all before.
But what is it in we humans that makes us so quick to offer an excuse for our choices, behaviors, and actions? To be sure, we want to defend ourselves, but why? What good comes of it except to make us “feel” better? What if the best place to be is without any excuse?
Look at our lesson today in John 15:17-27; 16:1-2:
The Lord said to his disciples: “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
Jesus tells His disciples and us today that His first command is the last command they need to overcome all the world will throw at them: Love one another. Of course, this isn’t the syrupy, sentimentality that passes for love nowadays that seems to evaporate at the first sign of challenge and difficulty. No, this love that Jesus speaks about is a self-forgetful love that focuses on the other so completely that the other is cared for no matter what.
This kind of love is impossible without an internal revolution of the soul. And that revolution comes in the form of the destruction of fear and mortality through the Lord’s total destruction of death and His filling up even the horrors of suffering and pain with purpose and meaning. Jesus makes this kind of love possible.
And it is this very possibility of this kind of robust and self-sacrificing love that leaves us in the enviable position of being without excuse!
Since it is now possible, with God’s help, to love others this way, we are without excuse when we don’t love this way. We are without excuse when we live as if death still holds us as slaves. We are without excuse when we live as if fear still has power over us. We are without excuse when we foolishly think revenge or some notion of “justice” excuses the destruction of another so that we can be “satisfied” that we have been treated “fairly.” We are without excuse to assume that the old ways of society are even remotely Christian at all. Racism, hatred, fear, ignorance, selfishness, partisanship, immorality, lack of discernment, untamed passions, purposeful moral blindness, and all excuse making for the brokenness of humanity fall impotent and hollow in the face of this kind of love and life offered to us by Jesus Christ!
Today, where are you making excuses for your life? Why are you still living as if Jesus weren’t alive? How can you justify pretending fear still has power over you in light of the Lord’s victory over sin, death, and Satan? Perhaps it’s time to stop making excuses and start being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Our Pascha Appeal is going strong. Thank you all so very much for your Birthday wishes and thank you Dr. Roccas for a wonderful Faith Encouraged LIVE show last night about her book “Time and Despondency.”