This thought haunts me. All I’ve preached, all I’ve taught’ all I’ve said, will one day be used as a comparison with the way I’ve lived, the choices I’ve made, and the priorities I’ve set. No wonder the Church teaches me to say over and over again “Lord, have mercy!”
But I won’t seriously learn how to truly repent and change the way I think if I ignore this terrible truth. If I try to sugar coat this truth with a notion that takes advantage of God’s mercy, I betray my true intentions of not dealing with my weaknesses. That, alone, betrays the hypocrisy of my prayers for mercy. No, I need, for my own salvation, to hold this before my eyes at all time AND never forget that God IS merciful and kind. Hold them both together so that my heart remains humble and dependent on God AND always asking for strength to live up to His wisdom.
Look at our lesson today in John 9:39-10:9:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Jesus again is speaking plainly in the hopes of getting past the hard hearted leaders of His day and reach them with the wisdom that will truly save them. His words hit home to some of these Pharisees because they ask Him “Are we also blind?”
You see, these religious leaders were being confronted by the Lord with their responsibility for their preaching and teaching. This struck home, and the Lord answers them in such a way that He is inviting them to repentance. He tells them if they were blind they wouldn’t be guilty. But they claim to “see” and that alone makes them responsible for their misleading teachings. Their guilt remains.
Jesus goes on to offer them the clear teaching that will overcome their guilt and lead them to repentance. He is the door. He is the shepherd. Anybody claiming to be the leader of the sheep is lying. And it’s only acknowledging Him as the way, the truth, and the life, that will overcome the guilt of arrogantly claiming the spot that belongs only to Jesus! Alas, they didn’t understand.
I have some sympathy for these men and their misunderstanding simply because I, too, miss my opportunities to confront myself with my own blindness. And, in spite of the clear wisdom of Jesus, I find myself ignoring that wisdom for my own arrogance and pride of place. And each time I fall into that ego trap, I am lovingly invited by the Lord to escape through the only “door” out – my humble worship of the Live-creating Trinity.
Today, we will never escape the need for humility and repentance, and it is only in embracing this lifestyle of humility and repentance that will ever make us Orthodox on Purpose!