Oil and WaterFr. Barnabas Powell
“You have to shake it” with those words I got my first instructions on how to handle salad dressing that had oil and vinegar and other seasonings. You have to shake it up because the ingredients just don’t normally mix together. Their properties are so different that they just don’t combine naturally. You have to shake them together. But when you set the bottle down for a while, they separate all over again and you have to shake the bottle again!
It’s like life. No matter how hard we may try to pretend that a “live and let live” mentality is best, there are simply some ideologies and beliefs that aren’t ever going to co-exist peacefully with one another. They are diametrically opposite to each other and no amount of wishful thinking or even legislation is going to make the incompatible compatible.
To be sure, respect and decorum allows opposing views space for expression and the proper honoring of persons. But to pretend that the ideology of a headhunter and a strict vegan can ever live side by side is just, well, silly.
Jesus does a much better job confronting this false notion of shallow coexistence when He warns His disciples about the inescapable outcome of His message and faith in a world that is addicted to darkness and enslaved by death. They just ain’t gonna get along!
Look at Matthew 10:32-36; 11:1. Jesus says “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”
Jesus makes it clear that someone who takes seriously the message of Christ and the wisdom of the Church will simply not be able to avoid the natural conflict of a purposeful Orthodoxy with a world system still gripped by the laws of selfish desire. They are, and will always be, in conflict.
And the first place they are in mortal conflict is in my own heart. This is precisely where most of my own struggles with the faith occur. I try to “make peace” between my selfish desires and the clear teachings of Jesus, and it simply is never going to happen. I am going to have to choose sides in this conflict!
Next, the purposeful Orthodoxy of a serious disciple will naturally lead to conflict in relationships. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. We should expect it and prepare for it. Jesus says these conflicts will arise even in the closest of family members. So, when my family reacts negatively to my practice of the Faith, I have no right to act surprised or even offended! I am called to an inner peace that allows for the external turmoil to be handled with grace and mercy and love. That’s the whole purpose of my own practice of the faith; to find such contentment and peace inwardly that I am a bringer of peace even in the face of external conflict!
Today, are you practicing the faith so faithfully that the inescapable external conflict is occurring? If your faith isn’t setting light against darkness, perhaps you aren’t doing it right? AND, is your serious practice of the faith allowing you such a sense of contentment and peace that this naturally occurring conflict doesn’t penetrate your heart, allowing you to be a source of peace in the face of this conflict? Make no mistake, the faith of Jesus is simply never going to make peace with the darkness of sin and death. Sin and death will always react violently to the Faith of Jesus. But you can be so free from both sin and death that your life brings the offer of peace in the face of this spiritual war our Lord promised we would face if we are purposeful Orthodox Christians. There is no use trying to pretend our faith isn’t going to bring conflict. It will. But that same faith will provide us with all the grace and strength we need to pass through this conflict and be the “light of the world.”