Study after study reveals the epidemic of loneliness in modern society. This is especially true of men. We men are lousy at friendship. Add on top of that the over sexualized intoxication of modern society and every close friendship is assumed to have a sexual component. Ridiculous!
But relationships require something that has been dismissed as “unhealthy” in modern psychological faddish self-esteem intoxication – humility. Any successful relationship requires a bit of self-emptying to be healthy. And it has to be valued above even my own desires. But that can’t become part of my character without a confrontation. That confrontation comes today! Are you ready?
Look at our lesson today in John 3:22-33:
At that time, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there He remained with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. For John had not yet been put in prison.
Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.
“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; he who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.”
I bet you won’t be surprised to hear me say that it has little to do with your own comfort or reducing our faith to some glorified self-help instruction!
No, in fact, St. John reveals the absolute key to spiritual maturity and actual Orthodox Faith. In response to seeing so many leave him and start to follow Jesus after St. John announced to the world that Jesus was the Messiah they had all been waiting for for 6000 years, St. John’s disciples started getting worried that they days of being famous were over. St. John sees clearly the end of his own ministry. In fact, it won’t be long until he is arrested by Herod and Salome will ask for his head on a platter. But John also understands the beauty of his accomplished ministry and he responds to his questioners with grace, humility, and confidence. In verse 30 St. John says “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The key to actual and sustained spiritual maturity is a Christ-centered life. When you are confronted with an ethical dilemma “He must increase, and I must decrease.” When you are tempted by selfish sins “He must increase and I must decrease.” When you are plunged into disappointment at being betrayed or hurt by another “He must increase and I must decrease.” It is the consistent practice of preferring Christ above all others that sets in motion the quiet confidence and peace that weathers any storm.
Today, where does Christ need to increase in your life, and where do you need to start decreasing the destructive self-centered attitudes that hinder your love and devotion to Jesus? The rhythm of daily and consistent prayer, the daily practice of the disciplines of the faith, the regular and prioritized participation in the liturgical life of your parish are all the tools to help you accomplish Jesus increasing in your life and you decreasing so that you can finally be Orthodox on Purpose!