Opposite Day – Opposite Life

Homily 517 – 16 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 2, 2022
Epistle:  (181) 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Gospel:  (26) Luke 6:31-36

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Do we really hear what is being said in the Golden Rule?

We can say it, we can even explain it to a degree.  But do we understand it?

Christ tells us this rule, and we quote it, and we are done.  But Christ said more, He went further.

He explains it in a way that adds additional significance and meaning, and leads us to a more complete understanding of the passage.

It isn’t just about treating others the way you want to be treated.  It is the reasoning that is offered that really drives home that point.  Ultimately it isn’t about us at all.  It is completely about the other, the one with whom we interact.

The unspoken part of the Golden Rule is that we treat others the way we want to be treated – especially when they don’t treat us that way.

How they treat us doesn’t enter the equation at all.  The statement isn’t about their actions or activities or thoughts – only about ours.  We can never take the position that I treated them the same way they treated me.

For if that were our standard, then our Lord would have never ascended the cross – never accepted crucifixion.

We certainly didn’t do that for Him.

We need to understand that there is no benefit in treating others differently depending on how they treat us.  If we love those who love us, what credit is that?  What distinguishes us as Christians by that standard?

If we do good and are kind to those who are good and kind to us, how does that distinguish us as Christians?

And the tough one – If we lend and expect to be repaid, what good is that?  How does that distinguish us as Christians?

The Golden Rule is what defines us as Christians, beloved.  The Golden Rule is why the scriptures say they will know we are Christian by our love.

Not love for those who love us, or kindness to those who are kind to us, but love for those who hate us, who mock us, who torture and bully us, who take advantage of us.

We are called to be kind and good and generous, and love – even love – all of those people.  Without counting the cost to ourselves.

Even Christians understand this is radical.  It is extreme.  It sounds crazy.  By the standards of this fallen world, it is crazy.  No one will debate that.

It is foolishness to the world.  Perhaps that is why I have such affinity for the saints known as Fools for Christ.  It is a difficult calling, to give no thought to what the world thinks about us.

It isn’t necessarily a calling to be desired – yet many of us will experience it.

Why is Christianity considered crazy?  Why does the world consider our standard of behavior – love, generosity, kindness – to be insane?

Because they only have this world.  They only have the things around us.  They only have creation.

We have creation also – without question!  But we have more than creation, we have the Creator.  We have the Creator of everything, seen and unseen.

And He loves us.

Which is better, to have a gift from someone we love, or the presence of someone we love?  That was and is a difficult lesson to learn.  Looking at my own life, when my children were small, I traveled the country five days a week for work, and was only home on weekends.

I could bring them toys or souvenirs – but that wasn’t what they truly wanted, that wasn’t what they truly needed from me.

They didn’t need stuff – they didn’t need things.  They needed my presence.  And I think they would say that they would gladly, happily, joyfully even, give up everything I brought them if it would have meant my presence in their lives.

That is what Christ reminds us.  God loves everyone – and we should too.  Including the ungrateful and even the downright evil.

In that love for others, when we love others the way God loves us, we get a huge benefit.  We participate in God.  His presence is with us.  The Love of God embraces us, and we are, to a degree, united with Him.  It is theosis, the union with God, that we desire as Christians.

And that’s not crazy at all.  Theosis is salvation, joy, love – all the things and all the feelings.  It is everything.

However – when we also hold on to the material things, the created things, when we harbor resentment and anger toward someone, especially when we are angry over their treatment of us, then we lose the presence of God.  Our focus is on us, not on God.

Our focus is directed inward, not outward.

That is the definition of death.  Breaking our connection with the source of life.

So we have a decision.

Will we abide by the rules of our world, or the standards of God?  Are we brave enough to endure the consequences – the derision, the persecution, the slander and the humiliation – of what the world will dish out?

Or will we enjoy the presence of God, and the joy and peace that defies understanding?

May God help us to follow the example of His Son, the Birthgiver of God, and all the saints – loving and giving, possessing nothing and offering everything to everyone, even those that hate us.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.