Thursday, March 1, 2012

Becoming What God Is

     From a young age our society tries to teach us that we have to have a good job or make great accomplishments in order to have purpose. Like many, in my youth I realized that I could not live up to the social models and found myself in a life of rebellion. Thankfully, in His goodness God made Himself known to me at an early age and because of this my rebellion did have its limits. With this knowledge of God I developed a hope that one day I would be good enough to be one his followers. However, my understanding of what it meant to be a follower was shaped by the social values that I mentioned. Eventually, I came to realize that these social values were vain and had nothing to do with God.
     In my days of rebellion I remember a police officer told me that I should clean up my act and start going to church. He believed in the social constructs that I mentioned and tried to help me establish the good person status. Even though I wanted a relationship with God I felt that the path the officer put before me was totally out of reach. In my heart I knew that I could never truly be that kind of person society wanted. Not being able to understand what God really wants apart from society I put off going to church hoping that maybe when I'm older I can be good enough to be that kind of person.
     Maybe the officer didn't realize but a social understanding of church amounts to a false gospel. What would have happened if the apostles went around telling people to clean up their acts and start going to their church? There obviously wouldn't be a Church. In contrast, the apostles went around and introduced people to God and gave them the power to encounter him. For them the local church was not a mark of social goodness in their time but a place to become what God is. Today it seems in the greater part of our Christian culture this understanding is lost.
     Many people give up on life because they can never be that special person in society or have that good job. In fact, even those who achieve the fabled status often realize that the hope promised by society was in vain. It truly is naive to think that doing something great or becoming something in the eyes of others will give us the meaning that we are looking for. Recently, I was reminded of that truth when watching some teaching on our tradition of Theosis by Archimandrite Damon. He reminded me that we are the image of God and called to be like him in every respect. There is nothing greater that you can offer someone then to tell them that they can only find their purpose in becoming what God is.
     We were called to share in what God is but we have all lost our way. Our Lord came to lead us back to this calling and gave us all his power to accomplish this. The sharing of our faith with others needs to demonstrate this power in showing that we are not defined by social constructs. The man in jail for life without any hope from society is looking for this power. The single mother who works two jobs and who has little time for anything else is looking for this power. As are many others. They need to hear that God is willing to share everything that He is with them in the here and now with no restrictions.
     You cannot find anything greater in this life than to become what God is by grace. He alone is the standard for how we should develop a sense of purpose in this life. This understanding is radical because we live in a society that's built on social affirmation. It's a hard thing to realize that nothing else matters and takes courageous faith. However, once someone takes that risk they will experience God in a way that will make the world seem like dust. In the end we will not take our achieved social status with us but we will take our ever growing experience of God.

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