Winston Churchill once said “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime, in your life.”
I’m not sure I trust the convictions of a man with no enemies. Let me explain. To have deep convictions means not abandoning those convictions even when they are not popular. And when you do that, you automatically invite drama from those who insist your convictions are “wrong” “bad” or “insensitive.” And then the drama starts as they pressure you to drop your convictions and “go along to get along.”
But, you don’t have to participate in the drama. There is no rule that says you have to respond in kind to those who attack what you believe or hold dear. To be sure, we should be ready to “give an account” for our convictions, but we always have the freedom to not argue or dispute to the point of fostering conflict. We really can choose not to participate in drama for drama’s sake!
I remember when I learned that there were some who hated me. Really hated me. I was shocked and confused. How could anyone hate me? I’m such a nice guy, after all. But my arrogance blinded me to reality and I finally had to wake up to the fact that I don’t always communicate well, or I leave the wrong impression at times. Regardless, the more I look at the life of Jesus, the more I learn the value of handling conflict with sober peace rather than strident argument or debate. Living a drama-free life comes from doing the hard work of cultivating a sober attitude that doesn’t feel compelled to jump into an argument or rush to defend my opinions. In today’s world that would be a welcomed way to live.
Look at our Lesson today in Mark 3:6-12:
At that time, the Pharisees held counsel with the Herodians against Jesus, how to destroy him. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
First, the Lord dealt with those who hated Him by taking the oxygen away from the drama! He went with His disciples AWAY from His enemies and was surrounded by those who genuinely wanted His help and His ministry. He didn’t run away in fear, but He did understand that if He wanted the drama to cool down, the best way to do that is with active absence! In my own life, I can’t tell you how many times an active absence has cooled things down so that the drama, meant by the evil one to keep us unstable and fearful, dies down!
Second, the Lord didn’t waste time on those who simply wanted to give Him empty platitudes. Notice, He commanded the demons He cast out to quiet down even when they were telling the truth! Because the Lord knew they spoke, not from love or worship, but from fear and envy! They “praised” Him to cause Him trouble! There may even be pleasant voices in your life that are speaking nice words with selfish intent. That’s why the fathers often encourage us to avoid flattery so as to not tempt the darkness of arrogance and pride to spring up in our hearts.
It’s counterintuitive to say the best way to be at peace is to avoid defending yourself! To practice silence and to encourage silence isn’t a passivism that betrays weakness, but a realization that the path to peace is never through the perpetuation of the drama of noise and defensiveness! This is such a difficult discipline to practice, but more often than not, it stops the drama cold.
St. Moses of Skete is a wonderful example of how a man can be transformed into a new creature by God’s grace. He was a notorious bandit in his younger years, leading a gang of thieves and terrorizing towns and cities with his violence and crime. He was so evil and violent that his owner (St. Moses was a slave) threw him out of the house because of his violent living. But Moses had an encounter with Christ through a monastery of monks showing him mercy when he needed it most. St. Moses was changed from a man of violence and fierce fighting to a humble and strong lover of Christ. He had become so famous for his humility and great spiritual discipline that when a barbarian mob was approaching the monastery where he serve to ransack it and destroy it because it was Christian, St. Moses stood there at the door of the monastery and was overrun by these men and killed. He understood that perpetuating drama and fighting accomplished so little, but his humility left us a powerful witness to the power of God to overcome tyranny and pride.
Today, are you tired of the drama around you? Do false friends spend more time saying nice words about you rather than actually being a help to your life? Maybe it’s time to practice some active absence and peaceful silence to quiet the turmoil these enemies of peace create in your life. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in secret so that true inner discipleship can occur in your heart. Perhaps it’s time to start living a drama-free Normal Orthodox life!
P.S. You proved to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Moses, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer obtained heavenly gifts, and you heal the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to you with faith. Glory to Him that has given thee strength. Glory to Him that has crowned you. Glory to Him that works healings for all through you.
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