There’s an old saying, “Life is simple, we make it complicated.” And what complicates our lives the most? Well, if you’ll allow me a bit of meddling, may I suggest it is our untamed desires. What I want, undisciplined and unmanaged sends my life down paths of consequences that make my life complicated. When I don’t soberly evaluate, tame, and discipline my desires, I make choices based on wants that end up making my life worse rather than better. And this happens all the time in big ways, but the most telling time is when this happens in the build-up of lots of small choices based on untamed desires.
How do we break this trend? Well, it all has to do with actually applying the wisdom of our Normal Orthodox Faith to our everyday lives.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 7:35-40; 8:1-7
Brethren, I am speaking for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his virgin, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry – it is not sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his virgin, he will do well. So that he who married his virgin does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God.
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, though being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak is defiled.
I love how the Apostle Paul deals with the unnecessary complications in the lives of the people at the Church in Corinth. He really does insist these believers deal with reality IN LIGHT OF the wisdom of the Faith they say they believe! St. Paul takes two examples of life in Corinth to show us the wisdom of tamed desires and loving others.
First, St. Paul deals with the challenges of sexual desires. In Paul’s day, the father of children still had the primary responsibility of getting spouses for his children. Here, St. Paul is telling dads that it’s ok for them to get husbands or wives for his “virgin” meaning unmarried children in his home. Paul understands that undisciplined sexual desires can ruin a person. History is filled with such examples. the desire for sex is a primary desire in humans and if it isn’t tamed by either the discipline of married life or the discipline of celibate life, it will shipwreck people. Frankly, the result of the so-called “sexual revolution” in our day is a clear example of feeding these passions rather than taming them. The results on society are clear, from actual physical diseases to the breakdown of societal norms meant to tame the desires of humans. Actions have consequences, and undisciplined desires always destroy. Your desires were never meant to be your masters! They were meant to serve you, not rule you!
Second, St. Paul deals with spiritual realities. Even though Corinth is a big city in Paul’s day the Church there was surrounded by pagan worship. Meat that was offered to the “gods” of these pagan temples was usually divided into three portions: one part was burned in honor of the “god” or “goddess,” one part was given to the worshippers, and one part was given to the pagan priest. If the priest didn’t want his portion, he could sell it to the meat market or to a restaurant. This meat was usually a bargain, so folks would buy it for themselves. But the Corinthians were worried about whether a Christian should eat meat offered to a pagan “god.” Watch how Paul deals with this. He starts with foundational principles of the Faith: Knowledge and Love. Paul tells them to press beyond mere knowing truth to actually practicing truth by loving others more than themselves. Being smart can make you arrogant, but love tempers the ego with humility and Paul insists the Corinthians answer their question by asking another question: What is the loving thing to do? Will your choice be loving to those who might think it’s wrong to eat meat offered to idols, or is it loving to waste food? It’s the struggle with the desires tempered by love that produces the most mature believer!
Today, are you humble enough to allow the wisdom of the Faith to teach you how to discipline your desires? Or are you going to keep stumbling through life being led down wrong paths by feeding your passions? Normal Orthodoxy offers you wisdom to actually tame your desires in your everyday life. The question is will you allow this to happen by being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Dear Lord, I stumble when I allow my desires to master me. But You invite me to see my desires, not as things to be extinguished, but as servants to be trained. Help me embrace this wisdom so I can finally be the man You made me to be through living my life as a mature, and sober Christian. And then give me the love and patience to be an example for others. Amen.