Before Faith CameFr. Barnabas Powell
The young man bristled under his father’s rules and regulations. He hated knowing that, while he was under age and under his dad’s roof, he had to buckle down and do what he was told. He daydreamed of one day being free of this harsh regiment. As he grew older, his impatience to be “free” grew stronger. And then the day arrived. He was “of age” and his father met him after his graduation from college with the news. He was the heir to the family fortune. He was his dad’s successor in the family business. And, as he slowly came to understand the responsibility and the resources at his disposal now, part of him longed for those days when he was “carefree” and still under his dad’s wise tutelage.
Isn’t that always the way? We are in our teens and think we know it all, but when “real life” kicks in, we realize that, with maturity comes responsibility. I remember one young lady telling me once after she had grown, married, and had children “It’s hard being a grown up!” Yep, it sure is.
Look at our Epistle Lesson today in Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5:
BRETHREN, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
St. Paul tells the Faithful in the Galatian Church that putting on Christ in baptism means they have become heirs of Christ. They have graduated from mere slaves to God to actual sons and daughters and that distinction changes everything. In the Orthodox Faith, we are not merely “subjects” of God, but adopted as His sons and daughters. What a contrast to Islam where all we can ever hope to be is obedient slaves of Allah. The Christian Faith even breaks down the distinctions between Jews and Greek; in other words between those who got the Faith first and we Gentiles who showed up later! We even see God dismissing any notion of “second class” citizens based on gender or language or economic status. We are all heirs to the kingdom of God!
What does this mean? At the very least it means we should never stop growing in this faith so we can continue to grow in our appreciation of what it means to be a child of the King. We should never take this for granted or just reduce our faith to a mere cultural decoration. Never! Our Faith means we are invited by God to “inherit” all He has, and He has everything. How humble and loving our God is that He holds all He has so loosely that He shares it with anyone, regardless of their background, gender, or education. It doesn’t matter how much money or prestige you have. It doesn’t matter that you got here late or that you don’t have a “proper” pedigree. God accepts you and “adopts” you as His own!
Today, God makes Himself weak so He can make me strong; where God makes Himself vulnerable so we will finally be safe; He makes Himself powerless so we will never be slaves again. He makes Himself subject to death so that He might destroy death for us all! This glorious freedom God gives to us as a gift comes at a high price, but God knows the victory is worth the cost! Is that how you value your faith? Wake up to what God has made you to be: Orthodox on Purpose!