“He just doesn’t get it.” Two of my friends were talking about me and they didn’t know I could hear them. They were right. I didn’t get what they were trying to teach me. My mind doesn’t work that way. They were both trying to teach me how to do some complicated electrical wiring for a project, and I kept messing up. They seemed to have no problems at all with this process and they were getting increasingly frustrated by me not “getting it.” I confess I was getting frustrated too.
We trip over this kind of thing when we assume that “they should get this. After all, I get it.” But the truth is we have to “want to” get it, and if we don’t “want to” then we usually don’t. I didn’t get the wiring situation not so much that I was stupid as much as I just didn’t have that much interest in the basics of electrical wiring. It ain’t my thing!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8:
BRETHREN, you yourselves know that our visit to you was not in vain; but though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from error or uncleanness, nor is it made with guile; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed, as God is witness; nor did we seek glory from men, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our very own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
St. Paul is talking about how he was run out of town in Philippi because of persecution. And then he goes on to say WHY this persecution didn’t stop him from his missionary work.
He says that he has “been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel…” And because he “gets it” he won’t let a little thing like persecution, death threats, imprisonment, beatings, and the loss of social status keep him from declaring the Gospel in Thessaloniki! He tells them that his courage to do this hard work flows from the Truthfulness of the Message, the Innocence of the Message, and the Boldness of the Message.
The Message Paul declares, his “appeal” as he calls it, is Truthful not because he can empirically “prove” all his theology in a court of law. That is the standard we moderns have foisted on the Faith and it is a completely foreign concept through much of history. No, Paul’s message, his Gospel, is Truthful because Jesus Christ IS Truth. The Gospel of the Church is the Person of Jesus Christ. It is when I focus my faith on Jesus that courage to stand for Christ is given to me by God’s grace.
The Message Paul declares is Innocent because Paul’s motivation isn’t to make himself comfortable. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to this pattern of persecution? Paul said that his motivation wasn’t to enrich himself and he certainly didn’t. When I am motivated to BE Orthodox on Purpose because I am grateful to God and I actually love God, then that same motivation moves me to share this eternal, spiritual treasure with others as well. Paul gets the WHY behind the Gospel – Love of God and neighbor!
The Message Paul declares is Bold because Paul gets the audacity of the Gospel. Paul fully embraces the amazing Message he is declaring. And that message is one that insists the Unseen God has become seen for our sake. This Seen God has embraced humanity in becoming fully human in the best sense of the word. And This Seen God has submitted to physical death so that He can destroy death and mortality from the inside! And, not only all of that but now this freedom from mortality means that every human being in the world is invited to join this Seen God in His Church so that they can become by grace what He is by nature!
Today, do you “get it?” If you do, then all this Truthfulness, all this Innocence, all this Boldness is yours so that you can keep the Message going to everyone in our age as well. It’s what happens to you when you’re Orthodox on Purpose!
This morning as I was praying before the icon of Christ, I noticed I was sniffling and snuffling with a slight runny nose. It struck me how much He loves us. My train of thought went to those who were around him all the time – his disciples, followers, the women, his Mother, the crowds, the self righteous – all ailing from something, all on the road to dying. And here is this One who so loved them all that He chose to dwell among them in their corruption, both body and soul. Oh, how He must have grieved for us! Oh, how He loves us! Oh, how He longs to take us away from this mess!
I’m making that little line you used as my theme from here out, “Love God and my neighbor”.