By Jackie Morfesis
As faithful Orthodox Christians, and for the sake of our place in eternity, if there were six words that we must have etched upon not only our tongues but our hearts it is “We Serve an All-Seeing God.” “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Especially now, in an era of nominal Christianity, political correctness, and assaults upon morality, these words are an urgent wake-up call to the current woke generation.
There is no need to list all the ways that we have watered down our faith walks. There is no need to bullet point one by one all the ways our lifestyles are completely incongruent with God’s Holy Word. There is no need to expound upon all the ways we claim Orthodoxy but do not live Orthopraxy. Why? Because as intelligent human beings, we already know the truth, yet we willingly choose to live in ways that defy God’s laws and His purpose and plan for our lives. However, it is instructive to at least mention a few of the ways that we fall short of God’s glory and why it is so crucial to self-correct.
On this point, we only need to be reminded of this sobering truth: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Not only is everything seen by God, but we will also be held accountable for every thought, every word, every prompting of our heart, and every action. Oh, no! This is way too deep! Way too real! I did not sign up for this! This is not the faith that fits with my lifestyle. My politics. My ideologies. Or at worst, my personal agenda.
If that is the case, we need to take a deep and hard look at identifying as Orthodox. Does is serve only a social and communal purpose? Coffee hours? Luncheons? Events? Or the occasional “Bid and Buy” or “Chinese Auction?” Festivals? Dances? Or is it just lovely to partake in Holy Week as a spectator once a year? We can even bring our non-Orthodox friends to see and show off the majesty and beauty of our churches? Or worse yet, let us live exactly the way we want, without repentance, or accountability, then decide to get married, go through the catechism of the church, convert, become baptized, and then never come back to services after our matrimony until it is time for another sacrament like baptism.
God help us. We are not here to live “for show.” Before we say: “Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1), let us also remember that scripture tells us to “Not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Our lives are at stake here. Our very souls. We are talking about our place in eternity.
If there is one word that so completely defines the freedom gifted to us in the faith walk it would be truth. “And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). God sent His Son as the Word made flesh. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:44).
We are made free in Christ, yet we continually act in ways to reimprison ourselves and in turn imprison others. We all have examples and experiences in our lives when we can definitively say: “I saw the writing on the wall.” We knew, without a doubt that the day would come when as is also said: “The chickens will come home to roost.” Or as is also said: “It is time to pay the piper.”
Why have these sayings survived the test of time? Because they have earned their salt. They are true. The day comes, the day always comes when every single human being in the history of humanity is held accountable for their lives. We will either see this played out dramatically on the earth or it will be dealt with at the Final Judgment.
So, do you think I am exaggerating? Do you think I am too zealous? Too on fire for God? Perhaps I need to just relax and go to a comedy show, enjoy a gyro sandwich, say obligatory “Amens,” especially in regard to posts by lukewarm clergy on their social media pages whose only contribution is reposting icons and sayings of the saints and martyrs because their own faith walk is devoid of spiritual wisdom.
Again, God help us. I am not a psychic. I do not have a booth on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey. But more than once, I have seen the “writing on the wall.” And more than once I have spoken truth to God moving His hand over the lives of those who fall short and celebrate defiling His Word and hurting His children. For the record, we are all a child of God.
My own life is a living testimony. Every life of the faithful must be a living testimony. We already know what God hates. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes our lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
When we see evidence of what is hateful to God in the hands and actions of others, we know that the day and hour are near. It is only a matter of time before the Lord brings justice. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
Every single Christian is called to testify. The Lord says if we do not testify to what He has done for us then He will not testify for us before the Father. We are called to turn our trauma to testimony. Let us be honest, every single one of us has experienced a life trauma, most likely more than one. Yet when we lay our troubles at the foot of the cross, God will take the ruins of our lives and raise us from the ashes. We serve a God who brings beauty from ashes. What God did for Israel – He promises to do for us. “And provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).
God brings justice in both subtle and in sometimes the most dramatic of ways. All we need to do is trust Him and His promises. We are called to forgive. We are called to bless our enemies. This is the choice He gave us. In our free-will, with a willing heart, we are healed when we give our pain to the Lord. He will deliver us. I know the miracle of deliverance.
I began this essay thinking of all the ways I have seen firsthand the hand of God over every person and every situation in my life where He has brought justice. Yet, I do not rejoice that anyone suffers. I truly do not. Not physically, emotionally, nor spiritually.
I do not rejoice that the man who so deeply betrayed me with his lying tongue and evil actions can no longer speak due to a medical crisis. Though I knew in my heart of hearts for years that the day would come when his life of cruelty would literally crash and burn, I have mercy for him in his suffering and pray for redemption and healing. Yet, I still know that God’s law is God’s law and there are severe consequences for our actions. “Let the lying lips be put to silence, which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous” (Psalm 31:18). He spent years speaking falsehood and deceiving others and not only his speech, but his actions caused grievous harm.
Jesus said: “the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). It is not only the “tongue” that we must bridle but the thought in our minds and the content of our heart that informs our tongue. Our heart betrays our mind, our mind betrays our tongue, and our tongue betrays our actions.
I cannot help but see the consequences of our actions once again, this time upon a woman who lived a life of jealousy and greed, consumed with materialism and her personal appearance. Whose tongue like the man aforementioned chose to speak falsehood over others like a cancer. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). God once again, moved His hand over her life symbolically and tragically, so that everything she thought mattered is now fading away and made vulnerable. As if the layers to her perfected persona, are being stripped away so that her soul has the opportunity for redemption. The tragedy upon tragedy will be if the chains of her selfishness, unforgiving heart, mean-spiritedness, and bitterness, are not healed but remain in bondage by her own willful choice.
As a dear friend, a very learned and brilliant theologian and religious scholar, told me – scripture speaks about the dire consequences upon those who harm God’s anointed. His exact words: “They should have never gone after God’s anointed.” These were the very first words out of my friend’s mouth when I shared my stories of betrayal and suffering with him.
When we give our lives to the Lord and strive to do His will, He will not only bring justice, but He will also magnify our blessings and as I have said, turn trauma to testimony. Do not think for one moment, I do not see my own shortcomings nor sinfulness. I do. For this reason, I hunger for His Word and to not only be fed by His Word, but speak His Word, and strive to live His Word.
We know that we indeed serve an all-seeing God. It is not enough to know the truth. We must live the truth. Not only for ourselves but for everyone in our lives. We are not here to be nominal Christians, giving lip-service to the faith. Or at worst, being brave and courageous “behind the scenes” but being fearful to show the world that we are His ambassador in the kingdom and His disciple.
We are here to be what God intends us to be, fully in the Light, unashamed and transparent. Living out His purpose and plan for our lives. Every day. In every moment. In every breath.