On Strength and Obedience

9-2-2020

2 Corinthians 9:12-10:7

Here, St Paul replies to some of his opponents. We constantly read of groups who would go wherever he was preaching to discredit him. In responding to them, he teaches us a very valuable lesson as well. Though he may appear to be weak, he is in reality amazingly strong. However, one thing that we must understand with that statement is this: as Christians, our strength is not a physical strength, it is a spiritual strength. And that spiritual strength can often appear to the world as a weakness. The “meekness and gentleness of Christ” can be misunderstood as weakness by those who are not spiritual. We see this in the very scene of the crucifixion. The Jews are mocking our Lord, saying, “if He is the Son of God, let’s see Him get Himself down from there,” and “He claims He can save the world, and yet He cannot save Himself.” And yet, while they are mocking Him, He in turn bows His head and prays that they be forgiven for their ignorance. See, to pray for the salvation of His persecutors would be viewed as weakness by the crowds gathered around, but which is truly harder? Is it harder to grow angry and strike out against those who wrong you, or compassionately intercede for their forgiveness? Is it harder to verbal strike the co-worker who angers you, or to love them and constantly pray for them? Is it harder to pay your bills on time, or to feed the poor knowing that you may end up sacrificing your comfort for their sustenance?

Paul says that though we walk in the flesh (fallen human nature), we do not wage war according to the flesh. Our warfare is not one which can be obtained through physical warring, or second amendment rights. Rather, our warfare is a spiritual warfare. And our battlefield consists of spiritual fortresses set up to create a divide between the spiritual and the fleshly (strongholds), human reasons which seek logical explanations instead of faith (arguments), it consists of the tearing down of human and angelic powers which seek to exalt themselves above God, this self-will and self-worship which lead to pride. It’s this ideology that we are fully empowered to do all things, that we are the only things that matter and as such have the “right” to do whatsoever we desire whenever we desire to do it.

And our weapons in this warfare are the Cross, the Lord’s weapon of peace; our prayer, wherein we grow in our relationship with God; and the Word of God Himself. We are to bring all of our thoughts and actions into obedience, which is to say into submission to God. And through this obedience to Christ, we are able to overcome self-willed pride. The Church is our fortress, marching against the stronghold of disobedience. And our obedience to the Church leads us to humility, which overcomes the power that so many of us have given to our own arrogant pride, this power which leads us to believe that we are in control. When we read Scripture and interpret it on our own, we actually begin to believe that we have more wisdom than two thousand years of monastics who dedicated the whole of their lives to study and interpretation of Scripture, but we overcome that arrogance when we adhere to the Church teachings on it. When we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, we tell ourselves that we are not God, that we are not in control, that we will deny ourselves fleshly desires in the name of obedience to the Church. Each time that we obey the Church rather than our own will, we teach our flesh and our will that they are not in control, but rather that we have fully surrendered ourselves to God and His Church, His pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Let us always remember, those very freedoms that are so often celebrated in the world often become their masters, and they slaves to those freedoms. The addict with the “freedom” to live their life however they want often become slaves to that very life that they celebrate. The one who seeks their freedom in money often finds themselves miserable, because that hunger grows and grows. Their greed can never be satisfied, and thus they become slaves to it, spending their entire lives seeking something that they can never have. It is not through the acquisition of goods, nor through any enjoyment of vice, that we can find true happiness, true freedom. It is through recognizing that our warfare is spiritual and taking up those weapons which our Lord has provided to us through the teachings of His Church that we can obtain true freedom in Christ.

And yes, to the world, faith, hope, knowledge, wisdom, honesty, charity, humility, obedience, patience, courage, faithfulness, self-control, chastity, kindness, and gratitude may seem to be weaknesses. But the one who has obtained these has attained true freedom, true strength, and true peace, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is due all glory, with His Father who is without beginning, and His all Holy, Good, and Life Giving Spirit.

Christ is in our midst.

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