The Enemy Within! Get Ready for Lent!Fr. Barnabas Powell
So much conflict today is based on nothing more than finding out that someone agrees with someone else you disagree with! The friend of my enemy is my enemy. But what if all the conflicts in the world could be solved by admitting that the Source of all conflict FIRST starts within each of us?
What if the outward conflict is merely a reflection of our inner conflict?
Just look at our Lesson today in Jude 1:11-25:
Beloved, woe to the ungodly, for they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever.
It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.
St. Jude continues our education about the perennial war between the “ungodly” and themselves. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no war against God. How foolish. God is no one’s enemy, though there are many who are His enemy, at least in their own minds. Actually, they war against themselves. That’s the war that has been raging since the Garden of Eden. And God, Who did not start this fight, will end it!
Look at how Jude describes these foolish people:
- They walk in the way of Cain. This way is the way that led Cain to destruction. The path that only focuses on me rather than the humble willingness to follow timeless wisdom.
- They “abandon themselves” (isn’t that a wonderful way to say that?) to Balaam’s error. This is the error that led the prophet Balaam to accept money to prophesy against the People of God in the First Testament.
- They “perish in Korah’s rebellion.” Korah rebelled against Moses’ authority in the First Testament along with 249 co-conspirators and was consumed by fire! St. Jude goes on to describe these people as “blemishes on your love feasts” (referring to the Eucharistic assembly), waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and so on.
All to show that their rebellion against wisdom is empty and self-destructive, but brings no lasting harm to God or His plan for humanity!
Jude reminds the believers that this was all foretold. Scoffers would be where ever the Faith was practiced. And the natural result of these scoffers would be division, empty lives, and undisciplined passions. And the only response to these scoffers isn’t an argument, but a focus on our own spiritual discipline through prayer and growing in our love for God. That is the only response that can ever hope to turn a scoffer away from his self-destruction towards God’s mercy!
Today, are you discouraged by the folks who make fun of people of faith? Or do you get angry when your faith is attacked? Don’t. It doesn’t help and only sinks you into the very mud that traps these misguided people. No, respond with tears of compassion and a redoubling of your focused discipline in the faith and you will show these people how to be Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, as we approach Forgiveness Sunday, please help me see my own sins and not judge my brother. Help me to finally understand that I really won’t be able to help anyone around me until I start embracing my deep need for repentance. I need Your forgiveness Lord, and You will always give it to me IF I will be awake enough about my own brokenness to humbly ask. But I look around me and allow myself to be distracted by judging others and ignoring my own faults. Please forgive me, Lord, and help me to seek forgiveness of those around me, especially those closest to me. Amen.