Divided Against Yourself

Divided Against Yourself

“E Pluribus Unum” Out of the Many – One. This is the motto of the United States of America, a republic founded in 1776 after a war of Independence from the British Empire. Of course, now the story of the founding of our Republic has come under fire in the last several years by those who “want to change the narrative” of the beginning of our country. They argue that “really, the Revolution was fought to perpetuate slavery and white privilege.” Works like the “1619 Project” sponsored by the New York Times, attempt to “retell” the story of our founding, but this retelling isn’t meant to be taken as “true fact” but a different narrative. Huh?

By the way, this is what the author of the “1619 Project said, so it isn’t conjecture.

There are nuanced and honest ways to see how this nation has always worked for a “more perfect union” with stumbles, mistakes, injustices, and victories, courage, and hope for the whole world. But the notion that there could be a place where all people, regardless of their “tribe” or “status”, could live as a united nation is solidly founded on the vision of God for humanity. Just read John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ, and look into heaven where “out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue” all the people are united to adore the Risen Lord of Glory.

Look at our lesson today in Matthew 12:14-16; 22-30:

At that time, the Pharisees took counsel against Jesus, how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make him known.

Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him so that the dumb man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

The jealous religious leaders of Jesus’ day were desperate to discredit Him in the eyes of the people. But that’s what self-serving leaders always do. They desire control over the population because the population outnumbers them 1000 to 1. They know if they lose control, they will lose everything. And they love being in charge.

So, these short-sighted leaders insisted that the great authority Jesus displayed by setting people free from demonic control was actually a “trick” of the Devil to confuse the people and draw them away from their “wonderful” leaders.

But, Jesus knew their thoughts, and He confronted these men with their shallow hypocrisy. And He revealed why they were so desperate to defend their “status quo.” Watch closely.

Jesus tells them a kingdom divided against itself will destroy itself. And that;’s always true. A nation that is increasingly divided is in real trouble. When the constant communication is “us vs. them” this is a symptom of the fear of the leaders in losing control; it is a symptom of a people forgetting the “Why” of their nation. It reveals the desperation of the provocateurs that they are trying to destroy so they can gain power. And it’s a dangerous time. So, if the Devil is casting out the Devil, like the enemies of Jesus are suggesting, then the Devil’s kingdom is crumbling. Makes no sense.

BUT, if God’s power is being displayed in crushing the power of the devil in people’s lives then the Kingdom of God has actually come among them, and they better pay attention to this Man that has authority over the demons, nature, and even death itself! The Lord offers them a clear invitation, and He offers that same invitation to us today: You’re either for Him or against Him. There is no neutral territory.

The Lord again confronts the spiritual blindness of His day and our day as well. He offers us true freedom from the bondage of the fear of death and He invites us to see our unity, not in our customs, cultures, or language, but in our fidelity to Him as He makes us a “new nation” made up of everyone invited to the Kingdom of God.

Nowhere is this clear message more plain than in the longest canon the Orthodox Church prays every year during Great Lent. The Great Caon of St. Andrew of Crete is a masterpiece of laying out the damning slavery of sin and the freedom won through repentance and turning towards Christ. We chant this canon over several days during Great Lent and I encourage you to read it as often as you can. St. Andrew is commemorated today, and I find it uniquely fitting that this minstrel of repentance would be remembered on July 4, the day of the celebration of Independence for the US. It reminds me of the passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14. This is a passage that we must embrace in our country if we hope to pass through the madness of our current chaos – “If My people, who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.”

Today, Jesus makes it clear to the people of His day and to us right here, right now. There are two kingdoms – the kingdom of selfish slavery, and the Kingdom of God. Only two. And our peace and unity and the highest aspirations of humanity are only found in the Kingdom of God. That is the only place of true unity, peace, justice, and love. All other lesser “kingdoms” always disappoint and fail. So, if you were to take inventory of your own life, your decisions, and your day-to-day routines, do they reveal your citizenship in God’s Kingdom or the always unstable kingdom of yourself? Are you reorienting your life daily so that you can live in the true “land of the free, and the home of the brave?” That’s the only way to know a Normal Orthodox life.

P.S. A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Andrew, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

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