The old Chinese curse says “May you live in interesting times.” Call me old-fashioned, but I think now qualifies as “interesting times.”
And when your life or my life is surrounded by chaos, confusion, disappointment, or unmet expectations, the temptation to panic or thrash about can certainly take over and my life becomes intoxicated with fear or anger or resentment or even hopelessness.
But we followers of Jesus Christ aren’t meant to have intoxicated lives. We were meant for the freedom of a sober heart SO THAT the present moment doesn’t crowd out the Light of eternal wisdom.
Look at our lesson today in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:
BRETHREN, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Of course, these Apocalyptic worries have been around forever, so that does make me stop a moment and wonder if I am overreacting! And the truth is I probably am overreacting. But it is this tendency of overreacting by we humans, no matter what our politics or our societal beliefs that is a symptom of what St. Paul calls “the mystery of lawlessness.”
It is both the abandoning of timeless wisdom AND the false notion that “we are going to destroy ourselves” that reveals the one common trait in all this mystery: We don’t love and trust God.
Look at what happens when we fall into this “mystery of lawlessness;” we abandon both timeless wisdom of morality AND the ability to trust that God is in control of History (His Story!). And notice that the Apostle calls this lawlessness by the same word we Orthodox call the Divine Mysteries. He does this precisely because we are dealing with the primary Sacrament of Satan. The Sacrament that defies explanation; is always beyond our ability to control or understand.
And that’s what is happening when humanity’s sanity slips into lawlessness by losing the ability to tell right from wrong. It happens when societies forget why timeless morals are best. It happens when a modern man claims that they have “discovered” new rights for this behavior or that behavior all in an attempt to normalize their own out-of-control passions! They have been captured by the “mystery of lawlessness.”
But, those who say they love and follow God are not immune to this “mystery” as well.
When the faithful panic and lose their sobriety and peace; when we fall for the delusion that this politician or that politician can rescue us from the confusion of the times, we display that we have also become victims of this “mystery of lawlessness.” We forget that none of the events of our day surprised God or have caught Him unaware. We forget that the moments we live are all invitations to embrace the sober and peaceful life of confident Faith in the God Who made the world. We become “lawless” ourselves in our panic and our lack of faith!
Today, there is no use browbeating your political opponents, thinking that your rhetoric or your powers of persuasion are enough to turn them from their chosen “mystery!” We who claim to love God must abandon the “mystery of lawlessness” for the sure and sober life of being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, in hustle and bustle of these holiday days, I find myself distracted from the true significance of the moment and the true purpose of Your first coming in Bethlehem. I’m tempted to worry about many things, most of which are out of my control in the first place! I know this is an attack of the evil one to get me off track as I prepare to celebrate Your Nativity AND prepare for Your Glorious Coming again. Give me the grace of a sober heart so that lawlessness doesn’t overtake me! Amen
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