One of the questions I get often from parents trying to raise children in a society and culture that seems to have been reduced to sand. This reduction has occurred as we moderns have allowed the deconstruction of timeless wisdom preserved for centuries, all in the name of being relevant or even “compassionate.”
My answer has changed over the years. Earlier, my answers use to revolve around battle and “apologetics” as if we could protect our kids from the insanity of society through mere argument. If we could just have the right arguments then our kids would be fine because they’d “know” the right answers. Imagine my surprise when that method failed miserably over and over again. Now, my answer to these parents and even to my own troubled heart has everything to do with the personal struggle in your own heart and the serious development of my relationship with God myself! I have to BE Christian in front of my children and SHOW them HOW to BE rather than merely arguing or turning folks who disagree with me into enemies or by reviling others for their mistakes and sins. I have to BE first before I can SHARE!
Look at our lesson in Jude 1:1-25. We won’t read the whole passage, because it’s actually the whole book of Jude. We will just focus on the conflict between the Angel Gabriel and the devil:
And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals, they are destroyed. Woe to the ungodly, for they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever….But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
The story of Moses’ funeral is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. The whole story can be read in Deuteronomy 34. Jude reveals to us that Archangel Michael and the devil disputed over the body of Moses. The end result was that Michael won the body of Moses and God is said to have buried the great prophet.
But notice, the Archangel didn’t argue with the devil. The Archangel didn’t fight with the devil. The Archangel simply said, “The Lord rebuke you.” What an amazing rejoinder! And the devil surrendered. No magic. No trickery. No profound arguments. Only the ultimate Authority in the Person of God.
In our daily lives, we are called to honesty. We are called to authenticity, and this authenticity MUST begin with a humility that sets God above all things and persons. If we are going to overcome the horrible lives Jude describes after his insight into Moses’ funeral, we are going to have to abandon the dead end of thinking we can merely gather facts to combat our “enemies.” We are going to have to embark on that thrilling and amazing internal journey: The disciplined life of a Purposeful Orthodox Christian – to walk the path ourselves of a faithful Christian, all the while reminding the evil one that it is the Lord that rebukes you; not me, not my superior intellect or philosophy; but the Person of God and our relationship with Him.
Today, let’s not fall for the modern delusion of “winning” an argument, but allow the internal transformation of my own life to speak louder than any argument – to be Orthodox on Purpose!
You don’t have to publish this comment, but I’m confused. At the top, you say the conflict is between the Archangel Gabriel and the devil, and in the first paragraph after the scripture, you say it’s between the Archangel Michael and the devil. I was hoping you’d pick this reading from today’s readings because this is the one I understood the least. (Chronic health problems have me behind on my daily readings.) Which archangel was it?
The book of Jude says it was Michael. I think Fr. Barnabas or whoever typed this meant Michael in the introductory sentence but mistakenly typed Gabriel.
I hope you feel better today.