“I wish I were older!” Those were my words to my mother when I was a teenager and longed for the “freedom” of being an adult! If I only knew then what I know now! Bills, taxes, responsibilities, ugh! Can I take it back and go back to being a teenager again, please?!?
Well, of course, I can’t. At least I shouldn’t. But too many in today’s culture really have refused to grow up. The “Peter Pan” syndrome seems to be all too common today. What’s that you say? Well, you remember the story of Peter Pan, don’t you? The boy who never grew up and lived in “Never Never Land.” But we humans were meant to mature. We were meant to get wiser, older, and more able to deal with life as it really is rather than hiding from life in some perpetual adolescence.
Look at our Lesson today in 1 John 2:7-17:
Brethren, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.
St. John is writing to his faithful as their bishop and he knows he is communicating to people who are in various stages of growing up. He tells his faithful that, now that the light has come, we are no longer free to pretend we don’t see! And our willingness to admit the light now shines is tied forever to how we treat each other! If someone claims to have “seen the light” but hates his brother is still actually gripped by darkness because when you see the light you don’t stumble anymore! I was thinking this same thing a few nights ago when I got up in the middle of the night and tripped over a toy in the hall!
St. John wants to encourage us and he does this by writing to children, young men, and fathers: three stages of growth that each come with their own blessings and responsibilities. To “children,” John writes, your sins are forgiven, and you know the Father. This is the “elementary” phase of spiritual growth. We all begin our lives as babes in Christ by having our sins forgiven and being introduced to God as Father.
To “young men,” he writes, you have overcome the evil one and you are strong. The “young man” phase of our spiritual growth reveals us exercising our faith and strengthening our faith with discipline and focus and that makes us able to avoid the traps of the evil one because of our vitality and purpose!
To “fathers,” he writes, you “know” Him Who is from the beginning. The “father” phase of our spiritual growth is all about an eternal perspective and freedom to rest in that perspective undisturbed by the swirl of chaos around us. This maturity sets us free to be at rest no matter what life brings!
Today, where are you in your spiritual growth? Are you ready to grow up? Are you ready to graduate from the elementary ways of children and finally move forward to becoming “fathers” and “mothers” who can pass on this treasure of faith to the next generation? All you need is in the rhythm of the Church; in Her prayers, liturgies, disciplines, and ways. It’s finally all about being Orthodox on Purpose!