Recently, I read an article by Michael Wheeler of Harvard Business School on how to make necessary split second decisions. Interestingly enough, Mr. Wheeler concluded that these kinds of decisions we all face always flow from our life-long and deeply developed character.
Dr. Wheeler’s article “Marines Don’t Do That: Mastering the Split-Second Decision” concludes that making these kinds of decisions in our lives require us to constantly summon the better parts of our nature. He suggests the question “Would you comfortable telling your children what you’re planning to do?” But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to suggest that we all need to surround ourselves with other who have both the moral courage and the freedom of friends to ask us these same, uncomfortable, questions about our own moral behavior.
But I want to also remind us that all of this moral behavior (or lack thereof) isn’t about God keeping some kind of “score.” And it isn’t about balancing some kind of “good vs. bad” moral bookkeeping that God looks at to decide if we are OK with Him or not.
This ISN’T the teaching of the Faith! In fact, there are any number of religious or philosophical systems that teach moral codes that will help you be a moral person. The Faith of Orthodox Christianity is about something (Someone) much more profound than mere behavior modification.
Look at our lesson today in Mark 10:46-52:
At that time, as Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaios, a blind beggar, the son of Timaios, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Now think about this for a minute. A blind man is brought to a Man with the reputation of healing people. And the Lord still asks what seems to be a nonsensical question. No one in that crowd wondered what Blind Bartimaios wanted. And the Lord knew it too! So, why ask that question?
The reason goes beyond the mere moralizing that all too many people falsely believe is the purpose of Faith. Jesus asks this question of Bartimaios to have Bartimaios reveal his true self to himself. In fact, if you tell me what you truly and deeply desire, you will know who you really are. Now this is a fundamentally foundational question. It’s only by getting to this self-knowledge that I can really see clearly what I need in my own spiritual life to progress to being “like Christ” as St. Paul tells us we are called to become! (see Philippians 3:10)
The purpose of our disciplined Orthodox Christian faith is to get to the heart of who I really am and then be moved by God’s grace, the lifetime participation in the sacraments of the Faith, the steady rhythm of the worship and prayers of the Faith, and the purposeful attention to the practice of the Faith until my character is shaped on the deepest level of my person into someone who makes Christ-like split second decisions based on my changed nature and not on my selfish desires!
Now THAT’S a life-long religion! That’s something worth pursuing forever. That’s big enough to invest my best energies and my sincere focus.
Today, especially as we approach the Manger where God makes Himself weak for us, let’s abandon reducing our faith to mere behavioral modification and let’s get serious about becoming the new man or woman we were meant to become! No more playing at the edges of this wondrous lifelong faith! Let’s finally determine to become Orthodox on Purpose!
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