This time around, Editor Scott Coleman has asked us to select, from the Bible, the specific teaching of Christ Jesus that we believe is “most important today”.
The question suggests that our Lord and Master is someone like Albert Einstein or Blaise Pascal or Aristotle—a great thinker or teacher or philosopher who has left behind a body of writing from which we can draw insights or principles that apply to our current cultural situation.
That’s certainly the way a lot of folks think of Christ Jesus. But it’s a mistaken approach. To begin with, our Lord and Master never wrote anything; He never asked anyone to write down His teaching or to produce an account of His life. Eventually, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church generated the Holy Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. However, as important as those documents are, they are actually not the primary source for our knowledge of Christ Jesus.
That’s because our Lord and Master is alive. In Holy Orthodoxy, we believe that after Christ Jesus rose from the dead, He spent forty days with His followers, and then He ascended into heaven. That means our Lord and Master is no longer bound by space and time, and that further means that He can interact with any of us. So, if we want to know which of His teachings are “most important today”, we don’t have to flip through the pages of the New Testament; we can simply ask Him.
But how does that even work? Are you just supposed to talk into the air? Is our Lord and Master going to respond with some sort of audible words?
If we want to communicate with Christ Jesus, the first thing we have to do is learn how to listen. That’s difficult for most of us, because listening involves silence, and silence means we have to turn off the television and shut down the computer and take out the earbuds. However, this step is absolutely essential, because silence forms the background for all speech, and that means, to paraphrase St Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early Church’s great martyrs, if we want to hear our Lord and Master speak we must first listen for His silence.
Once we have started to listen, we then need to be able to identify the voice of Christ Jesus. That’s not at easy to do either, because most of us have all sorts of voices echoing in our hearts: Each of our desires calls out to us; all of our fears demand attention; added to that mix are all the words that our family has passed down to us and all the different perspectives that we have picked up from teachers and coaches and supervisors and friends and entertainers and politicians.
Participating in worship and reading Holy Scripture can help us sort through all that. Those activities can help us learn how to distinguish the voice of Christ Jesus from all the other voices that are competing for our attention. And if we stick with it—if we are patient and persevering—then we will realize that our Lord and Master is speaking directly to us.
And, yes, the vast majority of the time, that doesn’t involve any kind of perceptible voice. In other words, you won’t physically hear anything. But you will know that the Incarnate Son of God the Father has communicated with you because there will then be present in your heart things that no one else can say.
Of course, if you would like help with that process, just send me a note or give me a call.