As I wrote yesterday, the Light in your life can attract many to become followers of Christ but it can also chase them away. As Christ said, “A city on a hill cannot be hid,” (Matthew 5.14) it was both a compliment and a warning. When we live as faithful Orthodox Christians, we attract others to Christ. When we do not act as we should, we drive them away. When the Light of Christ shines, it reveals good and bad.
In today’s reading from Saint Paul, we are chastised for not repenting from our sin. As a loving spiritual father, Saint Paul urges us to take seriously the new life that we received in our baptism. Unfortunately, as is evidenced by today’s reading, we often ignore the call to repentance. I have said before that our life as modern Americans is very much like that of the ancient Corinthians. Not only is our society the same, but our sinfulness and refusal to repent the same.
Brethren, I fear that perhaps I may come and find you not what I wish, and that you may find me not what you wish; that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness which they have practiced. This is the third time I am coming to you. Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them. – 2nd Corinthians 12.20-21, 13.1-2
Saint Paul didn’t send this letter without thought. He had been to Corinth twice before. He had taught them the way of the Christian life twice before. He had received their letters before, and still they held strong to their sin. His letter for us today is a light in the darkness. The Corinthians Christians survived in an antagonistic world, and so can we. In this case the city on a hill is revealed not for our shame but for our comfort.
Sometimes it can seem as if every ancient Christian was perfect. We remember so many saints, we forget that everyone was and is a sinner, even the great Saint Paul. If Saint Paul can repent from persecuting and killing Christians to the greatest evangelist of all times, we can as well. That is the benefit of the Light. Not only does the Light reveal the glory of God, it reveals our sins so that we can repent and join the Saints in giving glory to God.
Repentance is a life-long journey. Saint Paul, even as a Christian, said, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Romans 7.19) If the great Saint Paul, who warned the Corinthians about their sin, can also be struggling to root out sin, then so can we. Today, Saint Paul is warning us as a loving father. I pray we can heed his warning, and not let him down.
I pray we can begin the journey of repentance today and allow the light to reveal our sin for our sake. The Light will reveal our life to others. Will it reveal repentance and the desire to avoid sin, or will it reveal darkness and the desire to remain in our sin. One will attract others to Christ through hope. The other will drive them away in fear.