Isaac Newton once said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” How I resonate with that. Simplicity is the enemy of confusion and chaos. I’ll never forget the story of a Third world visitor to the US being overwhelmed by her first trip to an American grocery store. This precious woman broke down in tears, not at the abundance, but at the awesome struggle of sorting out this assault on her senses of color, diversity, and choice. She responded to her hostess that “this was too much freedom!”
However, we do live in a complex world, a nuanced world, and a very confusing world. That is our reality and there is no good to come from some escape or pretending this isn’t reality. At the same time, we Orthodox Christians are called away from chaos, confusion, and divided life. We are called to peace, simplicity, and joy.
Our current chaos, civil strife, and fear of death make this wisdom all the more important today! How do we get from one place to the other?
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40:
BRETHREN, when you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each one of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another by sitting by, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. But God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only one it has reached? If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order.
St. Paul deals with both practical and spiritual concerns here with our dear Corinthians, and reading this you may be confused at some of his language. I can already see the comments coming in about “women should keep silence in the churches” and “let there be only two or three, at the most” speak in tongues or prophecy.
So, what enemies does Paul reveal here? First, the enemy of simplicity and the friend of chaos is self-centeredness. I want my gifts seen and celebrated! I want my question answered right now. That spirit feeds confusion in a community and brings chaos, as it did in the Corinthian Church. This spirit that says “it has to be my way right now” is antithetical to the Orthodox Christian faith. But the opposite isn’t “well, I’ll just be some doormat and never say anything.” The temptation to fall off the narrow road on the other side is just as chaos-causing as self-centeredness. In fact, it’s really just another form of self-centeredness! The key is loving submission to one another and a willingness to do the hard work of communion together. When we realize that the struggle is actually “good” (though very rarely pleasant) then we will begin to embrace a Normal Orthodoxy that says every event in my life has the potential to help me and make me like Christ! It truly is a revolution in thinking and living once we mature to this point.
Another enemy of simplicity and peace is the “us vs. them” mentality. It’s the men against the women. It’s the prophets against the priests. It’s the extroverts against the introverts. It’s the Republicans against the Democrats or the liberals against the conservatives. All these false dichotomies war against peace and simplicity! We aren’t at war with one another. Only the enemy of chaos makes it seem so! And when we fall into that chaos and start believing all this “us vs. them” foolishness, we become co-creators of the chaos that destroys rather than the center of sobriety and peace meant to save the world! Don’t fall for this trick of the evil one!
Today, what are the enemies of peace and simplicity in your life? Where is confusion and chaos feeding fear and isolation in your heart? Start today to ask the God of peace to reveal those places in your life and press deeper into being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I am so tempted to join in on creating chaos. It feeds something dark within me! Please forgive me and help me stay awake to being a source of Your peace in the world. Grant me the foresight to see beyond the temptations of chaos now so that I can be the salt and light of Your Gospel to a world so gripped by confusion and self-centered intoxication. Grant me Your peace and then give me Your grace to share this peace with all around me. Amen