I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but, recently, in our country and around the world, there is a push for what has been called “cancel culture.” Don’t you just love how the media labels things? Anyways, this whole cancel culture thing is really kind of scary and utterly ridiculous. It’s honestly like watching a bunch of 6-year-old children on the playground arguing.
“You’re not playing the game right.”
“Nuh-uh, you’re not playing the game right.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you!”
“I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore.”
“Nuh-uh, I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore!”
I mean, really, isn’t this was it mostly sounds like? What a bunch of weak people we’ve become. We can no longer have a disagreement with each other without trying to completely humiliate and destroy one another and we act like, if we can just pretend like it never happened, all the bad things people do will just go away. It’s silly. This goes for all ends of the political spectrum. But, sadly, we see this in our own lives, don’t we? I mean, if we’re being honest with ourselves. I heard a priest preach a homily about something like this recently and it got me thinking and digging into Holy Scripture.
I think I have a solution to this whole problem. Let’s cancel ourselves.
Seriously, let’s cancel ourselves. Before you get all triggered, let me explain what I mean. As a race (the human race), we have gotten really full of ourselves. Our hubris is at an all time high, I feel like. I could be wrong. Humans have been pretty full of themselves for a long time. Maybe I’m just seeing it more because I’m paying attention or because this is the era of history in which I currently live.
We could use a strong dose of humility in our world today. But let’s not be too quick to just say, “Oh the world is so sick, and those people are so whatever.” In truth, it’s not just the world that is suffering from pride or the people you disagree with or don’t like. It’s us too. We could use a strong dose of humility in our own hearts as well. We could certainly use a big slice of humble pie in the Church today.
I dare say that, if the world is ever to value humility, the Church must illustrate it and live it first. Sadly, even in the Church today and indeed in our own hearts, self reigns. I mean, if we’re being honest. Unless I’m the only one…
If we truly understood who we really are and would spend more time praying and confessing our own sins, we’d have a lot less time to be prideful. I want us to consider a text on this one. St. Paul, who was perhaps the greatest missionary and theological mind that has ever lived, knew a thing or two about pride. And, he knew how poisonous it is to life in the Spirit. Consider that he called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So, in light of our discussion about pride, let’s consider part of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church.
We find, in Colossians 3:1-17 the following,
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
St. Paul starts off by saying if then you were raised with Christ; this is important. If you’ve not been raised with Christ or don’t know what I’m talking about, I urge you to go and find the nearest priest or pastor and ask them what it means to be in Christ. He tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. I want to be clear here. St. Paul is not talking about stuff. There is nothing wrong with stuff, per se. The problem is that our minds and hearts get attached to the stuff of this world and we lose our eternal perspective. You and I will live forever, body and soul. The only question is, will we live forever under the blessed gaze of our Lord Jesus in His presence or will we live forever in Hell. This stuff that you’re so attached to now and that attracts so much of your attention will one day be gone. But you will live forever. Choose wisely.
Then he tells us why. He tells us that we are dead. If you are in Christ, the old man is literally dead and your life, my life is hidden in Christ. If nothing else will kill pride (well, should kill pride), meditate on that fact. The only reason you and I have life is because of Christ. The truth about who we are apart from Christ should keep us humble. But who we are in Christ kills self. The only confidence we can have is in the grace of God given to us in our Lord Jesus.
Verse 5, St. Paul says it flat out, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth.” That is aggressive. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we suffer from pride is because we want to. We don’t want to put our flesh and our desires to death. We are quite comfortable with ourselves.
Therein lies the problem.
We would rather have our own idea of comfort here than put ourselves to death in order to live in and with Christ.
Brothers and sisters, we will not progress in our spiritual lives unless we cancel ourselves. Unless we put to death our own selfishness and pride, Christ cannot reign in our hearts. Put on tender mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love. Let the peace of God rule in our hearts and the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Give glory to God alone for who He is making you in Christ Jesus!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
My wife and I used to own a CrossFit affiliate. We’re still pretty fit (even though I’m pushing 50) but we’ve both been into fitness for a long time. Anyways, one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that nutrition is critical for us to achieve the fitness goals we set for ourselves. Fitness is critical for us to live healthy lives. I think we’ve all seen this during this “pandemic.” The number one comorbidity that, combined with Covid-19, caused death was obesity. As we used to say to our clients all the time, “You can’t out-train your fork.”
Garbage in, garbage out.
When I first began to get serious about my faith, I spent a lot of time reading the Bible. Duh, right? If you’re going to learn something, you have to go to the source. At the time, what I did not know was that there were other sources. Now, lest you think me a heretic, I’m talking about the Church and her Tradition.
What I learned (it wasn’t said out loud but the practice of it taught me this) in seminary and just after was that knowledge was the key. The more Bible you had memorized or the more you understood the better. There was very little, at least in my experience, of a notion of living the “right way.” Not that the people who called themselves Christians all lived like pagans but… Not that it was never talked about, but a lot of Protestants shy away from talking about how we live because they don’t want you to think they’re talking about “works based righteousness.” The focus was almost exclusively on what you believed, not on what you do.
As the years have gone by, I have become increasingly disenchanted with a notion of Christianity that is almost exclusively focused on knowledge rather than a faithful life. I look at the earliest Christians and see a group of mostly simple people who believed, and that belief then led them to live in a certain way. In other words, their faith and their lives were mutually part of one another. Faith and “works” were not separated. As I have progressed over the years, I have become less interested in theology and more interested in a lived faith.
The way we live our lives matters. The things we consume matter. The media we ingest influences our heart. Anyone who says otherwise is, frankly, an idiot. It is not possible for us to continually consume certain kinds of media and not be affected by it. It is not possible for us to continually listen to certain kinds of music and not be affected by it. Our hearts are already hardened against the things of God anyway. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah, relaying the words of God, in chapter 17:5-10 says this,
“Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed in the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according the to the fruit of his doings.” (emphasis mine)
Out of the heart comes the things we do. Our Saviour said this. We find, in Mark 7:20-23,
“And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Aside from the innate disease of sin which affects our fallen flesh, where do you think these things come from? Have you watched TV recently? Been to see a movie? Turn on most of the shows or even the news these days and all you see is evil, adultery, fornication, violence, wickedness, lewdness, blasphemy, pride and foolishness.
Garbage in, garbage out.
Let’s try putting good things in. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 5:1-21. I’ll put some excerpts here,
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” (vs. 1)
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints.” (vs. 3)
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (vs. 8-11)
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (vs. 15-17)
What we do with our bodies matters. What we take in with our eyes and hear with our ears and do with our bodies matters. Rather than ingest the things of the world that are spiritually dangerous for us, let us spend our time in prayer and fasting and reading and spending time with family and things that are good and holy.
Again, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 13:11-14, says,
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
Lotta action words here. St. Paul says to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. In other words, flee from the things which are against the things of God. Fill your life with things that lead you to our Lord. Most importantly, as St. Paul says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
If we have been baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ. We have now literally begun to participate in the divine life. The divine and the perverse cannot co-exist. If you have put on Christ, live like it! Put on the things that are holy and cast off the things that would stand in your way! Cling to Christ. He will not leave us, but we can certainly turn away from Him. There is no halfway, there is no compartmentalizing Christ. If you are in Christ, you have literally been brought from death to life. Christ has changed what it means to be human, He has restored humanity and so you have changed as a human. Don’t turn away from this staggering gift!
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters!
Glory to Jesus Christ!