By Jackie Morfesis
The faith walk is one where we at times tread lightly, carefully, even cautiously, indeed reverently, and at times where we have the full authority as a child of God to plant our feet firmly into the ground and not only take a stand but draw a line in the sand. And the days of drawing a line in the sand are upon us. In fact, they are here, right here, right now.
When we think of all the ways evil befalls the world and insidiously moves into our lives, we can target such shadows, indeed the workings of darkness with a word, deceit. Deceit is mentioned specifically numerous times in scripture. And also alluded to as the one who weaves behind the scenes. Present yet hidden.
As always, we can use our own lives as testimony. In fact, using our own lives as testimony, is a powerful place to speak truth to not only our own healing but for the healing of others. Years ago, I was deceived by someone I dearly trusted. A childhood friend. Someone I considered as close as family. And our families went back as they say, for generations.
This particular man had all the characteristics of deceit. He was on the surface, charming. Yet underneath his charm was carefully crafted manipulation, fueled by lies upon lies. In fact, lies and deceit go hand in hand. And many times, even if we see the lies and deceit, we are still deceived, like the woman who became his third wife who reached out to me for support when she realized his falsehood and trickery. Or in her exact words, his “lies and deceit.”
And this brings me to scripture. “Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” Psalm 120:2. So deceit is as old as time. In fact, lies and deceit are part of the grand cosmic drama of the battle between good and evil. And we know how this story ends.
Yet, in the world, right here, right now, we too, are in the midst of battle. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12. A spiritual battle. And the deceit that we encounter is the very real battle within the heart of man. And what makes it so very difficult, challenging, and even heartbreaking, is that it can many times manifest in the heart of those that we trust or once trusted. Those who have been entrusted as our leaders. Even our spiritual leaders. And like my childhood friend who has left a trail of trauma, that I reference to, those given our relationship to them, would be the last person that we could have imagined would betray us.
Yet, we are betrayed. And we are betrayed not only by those we love but by those who are in positions of power and authority and called to be shepherds of their flock. And for this reason, the repeated failings of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, for me, is not cause for celebration, nor something to rejoice, or to be somehow satisfied that he has proven right our assumptions, even convictions, again and again, but an occasion for dismay, disappointment, even sorrow. I do not take lightly calling out deceitfulness, because I know full well, that the day of reckoning comes. It always comes. Just like it will come for my childhood friend who believes he can live a life of lies and deceit and that the consequences of such character flaws will not eventually harm his soul in the way it has harmed others.
Yet, in the case of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, there is also a precedent. And like lies and deceit, the lies and deceit of those entrusted to lead us are well known. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:13.
No. I am not joyful in exposing what I see plainly before me in the guise of a leader who in fact is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And it does not comfort me to know that he would not have been appointed had the deceit that he embodies not on some level been valued and coveted by higher institutional authorities weaving a web of deceitfulness. When instead, what we deserve is honest transparency in our dealings with each other. “Keep me from the way of deceit and graciously give me Your instruction.” Psalm 119:29.
So, as we move forward in the unveiling, uncovering, and working to understand the contradictions and incongruities of someone who was elected to lead his flock, let us at the same time, remember that brokenness is in the world and in the hearts of those who have allowed the world to guide their thoughts and actions.
This does not excuse the behavior, but it certainly calls for not only speaking truth to power but offering prayer for the healing of not only those who are harmed by the actions of the deceitful but for the very heart and soul of those who feel that being deceitful is acceptable in the first place. Yet, God does not leave us in the ashes. In fact, we know that for those who draw near to the Lord, He will bring beauty from ashes. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20. For such a time as this we are called to stand strong.
Yes. The day of reckoning comes. It always comes. And for this, we must be prepared. Prepared to move forward with healing and renewal that is promised to those who love the Lord.
And may that healing also touch those who through their own misguidedness failed to be good stewards of the Holy Orthodox Church and stand for the faith. Who chose the world over drawing a line in the sand for God and His children. God have mercy on us all.