The Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. (6:16-7:1) and the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (7:11-16)
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of the work that God has done in the world, is quite literally a matter of life and death. In today’s epistle reading the apostle Paul reminds the Christians and by extension reminds each of us that we are the temple of the living God. God is not so much interested in large cathedrals and extravagant building projects. These things do not necessarily bring glory to God. God doesn’t need a temple! He proved this when He allowed the temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed in 70 a.d.
The reason that God does not need a temple is that God does not dwell in man made buildings. He desires to dwell in the temple that He has built, the inner sanctuary of our hearts. If you want to see God, you will find Him in His faithful people, as is seen in the saints. You and I are called to a life that is infused by the aroma of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The Lord says “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” We should really be amazed and astounded by such a magnificent invitation. Who am I, that the Lord should come to me or dwell within me? I am nothing. Perhaps I am less than nothing. Nevertheless, this is part of the good news. It is true that we are nothing but God does not see our nothingness as a conclusion but as a beginning. He sees our nothingness as a blank canvas upon which to create a masterpiece. This is God’s way because He creates from nothing.
We are blessed with immense possibilities in our spiritual life and in our ability to truly draw near to God and have a relationship with Him. But often our biggest battle in life is believing that we can have a deep relationship with God. Today we learn that God desires to share His Spirit with us in a generous exchange, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” But something is expected of us. The Lord continues saying “Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them,” says the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean.” What do these words mean? Is it a literal concern for what we physically touch that might defile us, or is there something more happening here? No doubt, the concern of the Lord and of His apostle is something more important. This is the concept of holiness.
When we are young or simply immature we play the game of trying to figure out just how far we can go before we’ve gone too far. We want to be a part of two worlds. We might pretend to be Christians when we are at the church but we might pretend to be people of the world when we are out in the world. When we leave the physical walls of the church, do our thoughts, opinions, and worldviews honor Jesus Christ and the teaching of His Church or do they pay tribute to the ideals of this world?
“Be separate from them” is not a suggestion of the Lord, it is a divine commandment. It is also a prerequisite to growth in the faith. Meaning, until I take this part of the equation seriously, I will not fully mature into the promises that God has in store for us. I will not reach my potential in Christ.
When we guide our youth, we guide them with this principle in mind. When we speak with the adults we follow the same principle. Bad company corrupts good morals. Just as an oak tree can’t thrive if it is only watered with salt water, You cannot thrive and grow as a Christian while you spend all of your time with those who don’t honor and serve the living God. Sometimes loving God means making sacrifices. By definition sacrifice means struggle and pain, but these things lead us to life.
The principle to be separate and holy is an important one. When someone wants to learn a new language, do you know what the best method is for learning? Complete immersion in the culture and language. We who are called to become saints are likewise called to a life of complete immersion in the things of Christ and His Church. Sadly, in our day and age many including our children are experiencing a different kind of immersion. Immersion in confusion, pride, sexual immorality and atheism primarily through the schools. There are some good and godly teachers but more often than not, they are outnumbered. The child learns what normal is, from their interaction with godless teachers and with their peers who often have no concept of God or Christian morality. If you are surrounded 6-8 hours a day by those who are unstable or insane (but who you assume are normal), do you suppose that might have a negative affect on you?
St. Paul, following the Lord’s teaching, leaves nothing to chance. If you desire to know God and to honor Him with your life, then remove yourself and your children from evil influences as much as it is possible. We say these things because we desire to see you thrive in Christ, to put on the mind of Christ and to live as saints together. Sometimes we don’t want to think about things that are difficult but it is usually the difficult things in life that need to be addressed rather than ignored. This is true no matter our age.
The Lord’s promise is quite powerful for those who have the faith to trust and obey Him. He says “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people… I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,” What a thought!
I would like to leave you with a prayer from St. Gregory the Theologian who writes,
“May you be children of God, pure and blameless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (cf. Phil. 1:15): and may you never be entangled in the snares of the wicked that go round about, or bound with the chains of your sins. May the Word in you never be smothered with the cares of this life and so make you unfruitful: but may you walk in the King’s Highway, turning aside neither to the right hand nor to the left, but led by the Spirit through the narrow gate.” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series Vol. VII; Eerdmans pg. 229
May the Lord give us the grace to follow this path together. AMEN