GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
In the Gospel Reading today we hear that Christ sends his disciples out two by two to preach the Good News, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers and heal the sick. Continuing on he gives his disciples a warning, coupled with good advice; that is, that they are going out to the towns and countryside as “lambs” among “wolves.” Christ says this because he knows the difficulties and challenges his disciples will face, dealing with other people and the circumstances they will face. These other people are the wolves who will try to deceive and cunningly attempt to destroy the ministry of his disciples. So, in turn, Christ tells them to be “wise” as serpents and “innocent” as doves. Different translations of the Bible use “prudent” “cunning” and “shrewd” as words synonymous with “wise.” Whatever word has used the meaning of the context remains the same: be smart about who you deal with and what situations you get involved in, but at the same time be “innocent” or “harmless” toward those same people.
In Christian walk today, here are a few areas that we need to be “wise” and yet “harmless.”
Quantity over quality: if you survey the American Christian scene, you will find an overwhelming emphasis on quantity. The narrative goes like this: the successful pastor is the one who has the largest churches in terms of the number of people and building size. Seldom do we call into question the theology or the practices of such “big” churches or pastors. They’re “quantity” and “acceleration” into the “big” and “bigger” are simply coined as a blessing from God, without any evaluations of the quality of their beliefs or doctrines. I must say that I respect all denominations but I wholeheartedly believe that the Orthodox Church and its way of life is the truth, and as such, the only truth. We as Orthodox should be about quality, that is, filling people with God, rather than, filling churches with people. Sometimes, as sheep in this modern context, we get pulled into this idea of “big.” We even get pulled into the churches without our proper regard for what believe. Don’t get me wrong: I think big is good but it has to be side by side with truth. Big without truth is “big” foolishness.
We even see this in the direction the church is taking in India. I understand we won the court case and those (jacobite occupied) churches belong legally to the Malankara Metropolitan. Taking a closer look at the situation are we more inclined to think about the idea that if we gain more property we will be better off in the future? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? We can gain all the property, but if we lose people we will have won nothing.
Shifting gears, this applies to our real-practical life. That is, in terms of friendships we should always try to have a few good friends, rather than acquire anyone and everyone for the sake of having “a lot” of friends. In regard to marriage, always remember to demonstrate genuine love through sacrifice and affection, rather than showing love through material things. In terms of our career, we should not go for more money but rather more “peace of mind” that would provide us with a better lifestyle.
In all of these areas of life, we see that quantity over quality is better when we are wise as serpents and harmless as doves.