“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way! I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cause I get better lookin’ each day.” Hilarious, right? But what makes it funny is that we know people who actually feel that way about themselves. They are always saying things like “Listen, it’s going to be huge. I’m going to make everything right again!” OK, careful there padre! (hee hee)
But seriously, there is a strain of this narcissistic pride in all of us, even those who appear to be very down on themselves. I call it “backdoor” pride because they have the sad-sack attitude that they are so bad that not even God can help them! See, their pride is in being so bad and they are so special they are beyond even God’s help!
We live in petty and frivolous times, and the Lord knows how to rescue us from this!
Look at our lesson today in 2 Peter 2:9-22:
Beloved, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation, carousing with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved. For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.
St. Peter describes these folks perfectly when he calls them “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.” It feels like an avalanche of words and descriptions is a bit much and even overkill. But St. Peter continues to describe these people and then he reveals who he’s talking about (hold on to your seats!): “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” He’s talking about people who were fellow believers who have abandoned the Faith!
But the key to understanding this passage is found right at the beginning: St. Peter reveals these persons “indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” It’s in being a slave to the passions AND despising authority that makes you the person St. Peter goes on to describe in the rest of the passage! So, what is it about indulging and despising that makes a person as St. Peter describes? It’s because indulging the passions is the exact opposite of the purpose of the Faith in your life. The Faith is supposed to help you tame the passions, not feed them! And once you start feeding the passions, you HATE being told you’re going the wrong way! You start despising authority! And you end up worse than you were before you were given the Faith in the first place!
Today, an easy test to see if you are headed wrong is in how you react to being told you’re going the wrong way. Do you repent or do you resent being corrected? If you’re like me, you’re a bit of both depending on your heart. That’s why the Church gives us Great Lent to help us pull back from the precipice of destruction by feeding the passions instead of taming them. So, go to confession and let the Faith help you by setting you free! That’s the path to being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Dear Lord, it is so easy to be captured by the spirit of the age and live petty and frivolous lives. But You came to rescue us from such slavery. Help me today to prepare my heart through repentance to live the meaningful and joyous life of someone who has caught a glimpse of who You know I can be. Help me to escape the tug of the mundane to reach for You as You sit next to the Father in heaven. Amen.