What is it about close relationships that either blind you or enlighten you? What I mean is, I’ve known folks who were so close to someone else that they were absolutely blind to that other person’s faults. I’ve seen it get so bad that the two people were so enmeshed with each other that they really were their own worst enemies when it came to other friends and relatives. There’s nothing like codependency to make for emotional slavery.
But then again, I’ve seen two people be so close and so connected, but with a healthy self-image and honest self-knowledge, that their relationship serves as a model of how two folks can really know one another and still be themselves. Our connections have real consequences and how we connect matters as well!
In today’s Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus gives His disciples good direction concerning how the world will treat them after He’s ascended into heaven. To make a long story short: the followers of Jesus will be treated like the world treated Jesus.
Look here in John 15:17-27; 16:1-2:
The Lord said to his disciples: “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
There are life-altering consequences from not knowing God. Of course, these consequences have been clearly declared by preachers for centuries. In our modern-day, we have lost so much of our Christian birthright and connection to the wisdom of the centuries that these consequences have been reduced to the cartoonish “fire and brimstone” sermons meant to emotionally manipulate people rather than enlighten and woo them to God. The end result is that too many people think of God as some kind of cosmic terrorist rather than knowing Him as He is.
But the greatest consequence of this lack of knowing God is a profound self-confusion about my own identity. And that, my dearest, is a confusion that ripples through every relationship I will ever have. It is inner blindness that guarantees a lack of spiritual maturity, lack of consistent peace, and the immature temptation to reduce all my relationships into what I can get for myself out of my connections. In other words, it is the trap of counterfeit communion.
Today, your first step, your first priority if you desire healthy relationships in your life, is to expend your best energy, make your first priority, your relationship with God. All other relationships in your life are, to varying degrees, an icon of that primary relationship. The effort you give to knowing God, loving God, and coming to know yourself through that primary relationship will impact every relationship you have. The Good News is God wants to be known and He has even wrapped Himself in our flesh to make that knowledge possible and intimate. Today, seek Him. He wants to be found by you! He wants you to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, You made me in Your image to be in Your likeness, and You know Yourself as Persons in Communion. You made us for relationships, O Lord. And You want us to do the hard work of relationships because that labor forms me into a person who can love another without expectations like You love me! Teach me, O Lord, to become a healthy person so that I can embrace being connected to others in a healthy way. Amen.