Six Sunday After Epiphany: "Reconciliation is Profitable”
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
I confess to you that I am a murderer, and I am not talking about killing insects or rodents. I have murdered people because I am guilty of what Jesus said that, “If you treat with contempt your brother, and think of them as good for nothing, then, you have committed murder in your heart.” Murder starts in the heart. The act of completing the murder in the heart is one with contempt, with a thought that a brother is different from us, and he is less than we are and we are better than he, and he is good for nothing.
I will also confess that I believe in purgatory, which is the cleansing, a process of removing things that are unwanted. In the parable, Jesus said to make friends with our enemies. His command is to love our enemies and to make friends with them. Otherwise, we will end up in prison if we have animosity with a brother with whom we are one. We will stay there until we have purged out anything against a brother – every speck of ill-will and animosity, of hate or until we have paid the last cent.
God is love; and we were created in this image. If we pray this, we should be ready to allow Him to take out anything that is not love out of hearts. Only love should remain in our hearts, restored in the image and likeness of God.
We sing the song, “Spirit of God Within Me” and a line goes, “Strive till the image Adam lost, new minted and restored in shining splendor brightly bares the likeness of the Lord.” The likeness of the Lord is not hatred of anyone, but it is purely love. This image will not be restored until we paid up the last cent. We do this by making friends with our opponents who actually are our brothers because God has made us one. The likeness of God is that while we were enemies, Christ died for us. He did not murder us; He did not think less of us. He did not highlight our weakness, our evil, our sin. He doesn’t count our sin against us. He loved us. Christ equated murder by being angry with our brother, and as such, we are all murderers. We should allow God to purge us and to cleanse us from this murder.
If we think of our brother as good for nothing, be reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:12 that says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed less he fall.” This is purgatory and we need to be cleansed, for this is death, prison, or hell if we have this in our heart. 1 John 3:14, “We know we’ve passed out of death into life because we love the brethren; if we don’t love, we abide in death and in hell.” We do not abide not in heaven or in the kingdom of God. If we have love, we abide in life. If we have hatred in our hearts, we abide in death. This is why reconciliation is profitable for us. This is what choosing life means – to have a right relationship with God and a right relationship with our brothers. Righteousness means right relationship with God and with each other. Death is its opposite.
Moses said, “Choose life.” God has provided us life, but in this world, we have things that would lead to death, and He commands us because He wants life for us. He wants us to choose life. Who does the choosing? We do! It is still our choice; God cannot choose for us. We make the choice. We cannot blame God for the evils that happen around us if it is our fault. God tells us to choose life, not to things that lead to death.
Be reconciled to our brother. When we have an offering and we are worshipping God, and if we have something that we need to straighten out or if we have a brother that we need to be reconciled with, then, pause our worship, leave our offering, and then be reconciled. Then, come back, and worship again and offer and serve again so that our worship and offering has meaning. Otherwise, it would be short of the glory of God because we are not in right relationship.
We can start with what St. Paul said in Romans 12:3: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Philippians 2:3 says, “Do not be selfish or conceited, but in humility regard others as more important than yourself.” St. Paul doesn’t say to regard others that are better than us as more important than us. It simply says to regard others, meaning all – whether we think they are better or not. Regard them as better than ourselves and more important than ourselves.
Jesus said that our attitude should be that if we see a weakness that we criticize our neighbor for, see first the log in our eye. We are not really any better than anyone. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:9 that he is the least of the apostles and that he is not fit to be called an apostle. He says in Ephesians 3:8, “I am the very least of the saints.” We know what St. Paul went through in his ministry being a righteous person, but yet he says, “I am the least of the brethren.” It is not about whether it is true or not that we are the least, but it is about having the attitude of being the least. It is not putting ourselves down, but it is not thinking highly of ourselves than we ought to think but exalting others as more important than ourselves.
Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be haughty in mind. Do not be arrogant. Don’t be wise in our own opinion.” Other versions says, “Don't think that you know it all; don't think you are better.” Have that humble attitude. Many times, we have an attitude of moral superiority. We see other’s offenses as unforgiveable. In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul says to regard no one according to the flesh. We are not to look at others according to their weaknesses, but see them as Christ whom He saved. Romans 14 says, “Why do you judge your brother for whom Christ died.” If a person is valuable to God, why do we have to regard him as nothing?
What is our net worth? It may refer to how wealthy we are – our assets. Our net worth in the eyes of God cannot be measured by any currency. We are precious because we were purchased by the blood of Christ. The ransom determines our worth, and this is our net worth. Thus, do not belittle anyone. It is an insult to Christ if we belittle others because He gave His life to ransom all. Regard no one according to the flesh or to their weaknesses because they are servants for whom Christ died whom He ransomed.
Romans 14:1 says, “Accept the one who is weak in faith. Not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” Don’t condemn them. Verse 3-4 says, “God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Verse 9 says, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.” I am not condoning or choosing death, but God’s grace is beyond our weaknesses. Verse 10 says, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?” Verse 17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Verse 19 says, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” It is not tearing down of one another or the criticizing of one another or the magnifying their weaknesses.
I thank God that He does not count our sins. Do not tear down the work of God. We are a work of God, therefore, no one should tear down this work because we are going to go against God for the sake of our little doctrines or opinions or idiosyncrasies. Our opinion doesn’t matter; it is the work of God that matters. The kingdom of God is not about anything else but the righteousness and joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul prophesied in 2 Timothy 3:3, “In the last days, difficult times will come because people will be lovers of self, lovers of money; arrogant, revilers, ungrateful, unloving, and irreconcilable.” Having to prove our superiority is actually insecurity. If we are confident, we don’t have to prove anything. If we are confident that we are loved, we do not have to beg for acceptance because we have security in God’s love, and we know what our worth is.
We live in an insecure world – a world of “me first”; “my sake”; “I am better.” This is why Jesus says that this is not so among people who are secure in Him because we are in the kingdom of God, a peculiar people, a chosen race, and a royal priesthood. Jesus says that if we are to be the greatest, be the servant and be the least. Ironically, the disciples twice argued about who was the greatest, and Jesus told them twice how they can be great in the kingdom of God.
God made us one. Ephesians 4:25 says that we are members of one another. 1 Corinthians 12:25 says there is no division but only care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says that if one member suffers, all suffers; if one member is honored, everyone is honored. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Jesus made us one Body with Him. He knows that our pain is His pain, therefore He won’t leave us.
Mother Teresa said, “If ever I become saint, you won’t find me in heaven because I will be in the darkness shining my light there.” In Philippians 2, it says that Christ stripped Himself of the joys of heaven and came down to save perishing men. St. Paul says to have the same attitude. Have the same mind. If Christ sacrificed that much, and we are asked to sacrifice very little compared to what He has sacrificed, then, we have no right to disobey Him.
An Orthodox monk said, “You can be certain that as long as someone is in hell, Jesus will remain there with Him.” What is hell? It is enmity with God and brother because righteousness is a right relationship with God and a right relationship with each other. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. St. Paul says that this proves that we have life. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love and we are in a right relationship with our brother. They may choose not to return our love, but we choose to love them. If they choose to remain to be enemies with us, we still choose to love, and thus, we are dwelling in heaven in the kingdom of God.
Jesus will continue to work in us until we are one with God and with each other. There is this purgatory until we have paid the last cent for He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. He has made us one and He wants us to walk as one because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.