St. Basil said, “And so let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God.”
What a true blessing to read and know, especially in a moment in human history when those who control the popular narrative being fed to us on a daily basis have decided that Christ-followers are “dangerous.” Of course, true Christ-followers ARE dangerous but not for the reasons made popular by those gripped by parasitic and cancerous delusions.
No, what makes true Christ-followers dangerous is their steadfastness and faithfulness in the face of the shifting sands of morality unmoored to wisdom. And it is that very faithfulness, even in the face of derision and hatred, that fills faithful fathers with joy.
Look at our lesson in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-20:
Brethren, you became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face; because we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, again and again – but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
St. Paul is writing to the Church in Thessaloniki and commending them for their faithfulness in spite of opposition. In fact. Paul reveals the reality that all this opposition from people deluded by unbelief will end up being damnation to these people gripped by their hatred for Christ.
It seems these Thessalonians were being persecuted for their faith in Christ by their Gentile neighbors, just like Paul was persecuted by his Jewish tribe, for faith in Christ. Of course, anytime people make choices that seem to go against their “tribe” it is bound to stir up discomfort and trouble. But these Gentile believers didn’t let the anger and fear of their community sway them away from Christ!
In fact, Paul says that these believers imitated the faithful Christ-followers in Judea. Imitation is always a great source of understanding behaviors that are passed from one person to the next. It is by imitating the lives of the saints, and imitating Jesus that we become like Christ in our actions, attitudes, and choices.
But, almost as an aside, St. Paul reveals the ultimate end of those who choose to imitate the evil one. He reveals the results of living a life motivated by fear and unbelief. And the list is terrifying! It seems with every act of persecution, every denial of Christ and His saving message, every rejection of the peace and transformation of life offered to these persecutors fills “up the measure of their sins.” And God’s wrath has come upon them at last! What form does this wrath take? It is seen in their squinting at the brightness of the Sun they can no longer avoid by hiding their lives in the darkness that has been destroyed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul longs to see these precious people because he loves them. He calls them his “glory and joy” because their faithfulness in the face of hatred and persecution are witnesses to their true communion with Jesus Christ.
So, today, are you able to stay faithful in spite of the world around you pressing you to give in to criticism, hatred, and delusion? Is your relationship with Jesus growing in strength and faithfulness because you are actively seeking to be more faithful and attentive to your faith? Turning toward the Light and allowing that Light to drive all darkness from your heart is the only way to avoid the foolish moment when you come into the Light unprepared to live in the Light forever! It’s WHY being Orthodox on Purpose changes everything!
P.S. Dear Lord, it’s hard living in a society where following You is derided and maligned. I really want those around me to respect me and like me. And when society says following You is foolish or backward or even evil, I’m tempted toward doubt. Then I see Your Face and hear Your loving words in the prayers and the liturgy and I fall in love with You all over again. Please help me to keep my eyes on the Light, so that Your Light keeps me focused. Amen.