The Path To Wise Living

The Path To Wise Living

It took me a long time to finally get my mind and heart around the profound difference between wisdom and legislation. For most of my life, I spent most of my time being a rule keeper. After all, I was the firstborn son. I was responsible to obey the rules. I was supposed to be the “good boy” that would grow up to be a “good leader” who taught everyone to obey the rules.

It was a painful lesson when I learned that I wasn’t strong enough or “good” enough to be “right.” In fact, it shook my faith in God and myself when I discovered that the “rule-keeping” wasn’t strong enough to truly change me. I needed to develop wisdom for that kind of life change! And wisdom required a much more intimate relationship with Jesus than merely keeping His rules!

Don’t get me wrong! Rules were really important when I was 3 years old. But when I entered my teens and 20-somethings I discovered that there was going to be something much more profound that was needed if I was to be more than just a “rule-keeper.” I needed the deeper “why” behind the rules if I was ever going to see my life truly transformed by love for God and my neighbor. I discovered the weakness of rigidity and the power of firmness based on love rather than merely being “correct.” But it was the wisdom preserved in the “rules” that became the path to wise living. So, being proud that you don’t follow the rules is a sure way to end up foolishly squandering your potential.

Look at our 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.

So, St. Paul is trying to get these Galatians, most of which were not raised in Jewish homes, to not buy into the heresy that they had to be Jewish before they could be Christian. It’s kind of like the false notion that you have to be Greek, or Russian, or Serbian, or Romanian, or (fill in the blank of your favorite ethnicity) before you can become Orthodox. That notion is, has always been, and will forever be, false.

And yet…

St. Paul refuses to call the Jewish practices of the Law that had actually become second nature to the Jews, bad. In fact, St. Paul insists that the Law, the ritual rules, and regulations, were our “custodians” until Christ came.

This means that the “rules and regulations” serve a vital purpose in our maturity and development, and always will. There is a great benefit in the humble honesty of realizing you need boundaries to not just keep you safe (that’s too small a motivation to produce anything else but slavery) but to train your inner self to recognize the dangers in life when they come. Most of the biggest mistakes in my life have come when I was asleep to the “cliffs” of my own intoxicated actions devoid of the wisdom of maturity. I bet you can see that in your life as well.

So, the purpose of the “rules and regs” is to train you, form you, and teach you to recognize when your passions are out of control. They serve as the “custodian” until we grow up enough to value our relationship with Jesus ABOVE our own immediate desires! And that “grown-up” place isn’t some “magic moment” when “poof” “I’m saved” as much as it is a day-by-day choosing, from my freedom, to realize the treasure the Faith gives me in giving me, Jesus! That treasure is nothing less than actually “putting on” Christ at my baptism, becoming “Abraham’s offspring,” and “heirs” of the promise of new life in Christ. The Treasure is when rules become wisdom and my motivation to follow them flows from that stronger motivation of love rather than my ego’s desire to be “correct.”

St. Paraskevi was a woman, born to pious Christian parents, Agatho and Politia, near the city of Rome early in the second century. Since she was born on a Friday, she was given the Greek name for Friday, Paraskeve, which means “preparation.” Friday was the day of Preparation for the worship on Saturday and Sunday. So St. Paraskevi was a woman who lived out her name. She never neglected the wisdom of the Faith in preparing herself to become by grace what Christ is by nature! Her life was the very embodiment of her name. By the way, that’s why it is so important to let your Faith inform how you name your children! During the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius, she was arrested for being a Christian and was urged to worship the idols, but she answered with the words of Jeremias: “Let the gods that have not made heaven and the earth perish from off the earth” (Jer. 10:11). Because of this she endured exceedingly painful torments, and was beheaded in the year 140 AD. She lived and she died Prepared because she refused to neglect the wisdom found in the disciplines of the Faith.

Today, don’t despise or dismiss the wisdom of the rules and regulations.” You do so at your own peril. Embrace them as the valuable tools they are to show you the dangers of undisciplined desires. Then, don’t stop! Keep growing up until you realize the unspeakable joy of a Normal Orthodoxy that leads you to have a normal Orthodox Life!

P.S. Appropriate to your calling, O Champion Paraskevi, you worshipped with the readiness your name bears. For an abode, you obtained faith, which is your namesake. Wherefore, you pour forth healing and intercede for our souls.

A recent message to us from our media outreach: “Father Powell, this Sermon hit me right in my heart. Thank you from my renewed heart and mind.” Your support makes this possible!

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