Ordinary Men

Ordinary Men

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

What strikes me most about it is the challenge it lays at our feet to finally and truly grasp what God has always intended to do for us humans – to make us like Himself! Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of mere mortality to rob us of our dignity as persons created in God’s image.

This means we aren’t free until we embrace and are embraced by His purpose for us all. But even if we disregard God all our lives, we will not escape the confrontation of what and who we are – we are persons, all of us, made in God’s image to be in His likeness. So, if we reject this “high calling” of God in Christ Jesus, we only become an ugly mirror of what we should be. In other words, we are, right now, becoming what we will keep on becoming for eternity, either a lover of God more and more purified by His firey Presence to be refined into His likeness eternally, OR we are forever being forged by that same fire of God’s love into an ever-increasing parody of Him in our darkness, selfishness, and hideous blindness.

Either forever more beautiful or forever more hideous, but no one is ever merely “ordinary.”

Look at our lesson in 1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 3:1-8:

Brethren, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.

St. Paul is continuing to confront the Church at Corinth with their “too small” mindset, which produces nothing but bickering, jealousy, and arrogance. The Corinthians are all wanting to be followers of Christ, at least that’s what they say, but their behaviors are still bearing the ugly stench of their refusal to be changed by God’s grace. They are on the right path but they’ve stopped on their journey and have stopped maturing in their faith. That’s why Paul has to keep feeding them the spiritual milk of the Faith and not the stronger “meat” they need to grow in their Faith to keep on becoming like Christ.

St. Paul tells them, and us, the difference is between being truly “spiritual” and merely being “unspiritual.” Careful, this is some silly selfishness that claims to know “secret” things because of some magical imagination, but the spiritual mind is the mind that has so repented and keeps on repenting that they start to have the “mind of Christ.” In other words, the person who has escaped the ordinary will be that person who sees the world from God’s perspective, not the temporary perspectives that make us selfish, arrogant, and “too small.” And this “too smallness” always manifests itself in some form of tribalism, saying “I belong” to this or that group and that proves I’m right! Always a dead end for us to ever truly mature in the Faith.

When we live our daily lives as if Christ did not conquer death, we reduce ourselves to “ordinary men.” We fall prey to the fear and jealousy of lives gripped by the fear of death. We fight over foolish things. Our ego “demands” recognition and attention. Our feelings are easily hurt. Our relationships become all about making ourselves feel better. We become spiritual and emotional vampires, consuming others for our own survival. In other words, we become that which we are not – ordinary.

Sts. Proclus and Hilarios were no ordinary men. This uncle and nephew lived in a village near Ancyra (now modern Akara, Turkey) in 106 AD, just at the beginning of the 2nd century. St. Proclus was a believer in the times when that meant death if the powers that be insisted the Christians deny the Faith and worship the pagan gods. Proclus was arrested for being a Christian and was told by the governor that he had to abandon Christ and worship the pagan gods. Proclus refused and was sentenced to death after being tortured. As the guards were taking him to the place of execution, St. Hilarios saw his uncle being taken to his death. Proclus’ nephew immediately embraced his uncle and declared he was Christian too, knowing this would mean his death as well. St. Proclus was shot with arrows and St. Hilarios was beheaded for refusing to be just ordinary men!

Today, where is the forgetfulness of your true self most evident in your life? Where are you afraid? Where are you jealous or envious or angry? Examine those places in your heart today and you will discover the missing ingredient of faith, of the mind of Christ. Thinking like Christ thinks banishes all of this foolishness from our lives and sets us free to live as we truly are – The Eternal Companions of God, the Uncreated. Why would you want to live below that awesome calling? Let’s be Normal Orthodox Christians!

P.S. As kinsmen, you did prove to be of like spirit in your life and of one accord in all things, O renowned Martyr Proclus and godly-minded Hilarios; for having yourselves become images of the Passion of Christ, you were counted worthy of glory, and you grant divine forgiveness unto all.

Thanks for your prayers for Fr. Barnabas as he is away with his family on vacation. Please say a prayer for the ministry as well during these difficult summer months.

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