Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Become an Apostle of Christ

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10.34-38
These words of Jesus have always been a challenge to us as Christians. We desire peace. We pray for peace at every Divine Liturgy. When loved ones die we hope they rest in peace. Jesus gives us peace (see John 20.19) So why does He also tell us He did not come to bring peace but a sword? I think the answer rests partially in today’s Epistle Reading:
St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 4:9-16 (RSV) - BRETHREN, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
The truth is the devil has a stronghold on the entire earth. He has been given authority, although only temporarily, by God to rule here. So when Jesus came to usher in the end of the devil’s reign, the devil upped his anti, so to speak, and increases the temptations and burdens on the earth. Our job as Christians is to choose Christ Who is at war with the devil. The devil will not win, but he plans to take down as many of us as he can in the meantime.

To those who side with the devil we must seem a strange sort of person. As followers of Christ, we choose to ignore riches (or at least we should), we choose to welcome the stranger, we choose to place the needs of others above our own desires (or at least we should). All of these behaviors, as Saint Paul admits in today’s Epistle, are a true struggle for the Christian, but our Lord said, if we love the worldly things more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. If we choose to side with the devil and refuse to embrace our struggle against the devil, we refuse our cross, we are not worthy of God.

Tomorrow begins the Feast of Theophany. It is a day of strict fasting following a period of no fasting to celebrate Christmas. I urge you to embrace the call of Christ, and become His apostle. Don’t panic when you feel the sword for your faith. Jesus already won the war. He will comfort and rescue you from the battle.

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