By H.G. Bishop Makarios
Change is a feature of Life. All things develop and change. One can even say that the one constant thing is change. As far as change is concerned, people take one of three stances:
1. Some are contented with whatever they have, and find no need for change. They might even be afraid of change or adventure, and shy away from trying things. They might have grown desperate after previous attempts. Hence, they never develop. And who never steps forward ultimately steps back. Such people tend to be lazy and inert. Yet, when there is a will there is a way: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). So, those who are capable of changing are the conscious, not the submissive.
2. Some are adventurous and are fond of constantly changing; they see this as a healthy attitude. Condoleezza Rice had once been thrown out, in her early youth, from an egg restaurant. Her mother told her back then: “You might not be able to get a meal in an egg restaurant, but you can become the President of the USA!” She did in fact become the strongest woman worldwide when she was National Security Counsellor, and then Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
3. All that is quite different from that other type of change which reflects a kind of tension in the personality, where a person cannot maintain a state of mind for any length of time. Such a type of personality runs the risk of never bearing fruit; indeed, this is called instability.
But the required change is not one of the outside; it should rather be in the essence, or from the inside: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). So, the outward change should derive from the inward one. It is not superficial (schema), but essential (morphe). So, we can say that metania is really about “change of mind or conscience”, which is undoubtedly an action from within.
First: Bases of Change
The radical change we are talking about was charted for us by St Paul when he said, in Romans 12: “Be transformed ...” It is not about a mere change of outward features, rather the whole being of a human. If we were to ask him: How?, he would have replied: There are four bases to the radical change, namely:
1. The renewing of your minds.
2. The membership in the Body of Christ.
3. The investment of talents in the Service.
4. The faithful Testimony within the society.
1- Renewing the Mind with Repentance
In the Greek language “change of mind” is metania, where meta = change, and nia comes from nous = mind. So, this signifies that someone who repents is really someone who has mindfully thought about the grave consequences of detaching oneself from God, and indulging oneself in sins, and concluded that Sin:
1. Destroys the spirit since it shuts us away from God.
2. Destroys the thought which then suffers darkness and interference.
3. Destroys the soul as we suffer the mutiny of the instincts and desires.
4. Destroys the body so, smoking destroys the lungs and the heart, heavy drinking destroys the liver and the bladder, narcotics destroy the brain, and adultery destroys the whole body with a variety of diseases.
5. Destroys relationships since someone who is spiritually deviant becomes a failure socially, as no one would dare to entrust him/her with anything.
Holiness, on the other hand, is constructive for the spirit (when we get satisfied with God), the mind (when it gets illuminated by the Holy Bible), the soul (when it gets disciplined with spiritual struggling and the Grace), the body (when it stays away from the bad habits we mentioned, and uses sports and activities), and the relationships (since those who are spiritually successful are socially successful as well, love the others and are loved by them).
2- Membership in the Body of Christ (the Church)
We become members in the Body of Jesus and the church, by faith, baptism and repentance.
A) Christ is the head of the body. B) The saints are the heavenly (Celestial) members.
C) The faithful are the earthly (Terrestrial) members.
The believers then find themselves in a big organization with the Lord of Glory who is omnipotent and offers eternal love, as its HEAD. The saints are a good example for us and they intercede on our behalf. The Lord communicates with the believers through the unity of the church and the Holy Eucharist.
St. Paul, the apostle, talks about the Holy Eucharist in (1 Corinthians 10: 16-17). The priest chooses one round bread to represent the Lamb. We all share in one Holy Communion to feel that we are all one body in Christ (Romans 12:4), we co-operate with one another, the same as all parts of the body function together for the well-being of the body
3. TALENTS IN SERVING THE CHURCH
St. Paul, the apostle, talks about twelve gifts given by the Lord to all who repented and became members in His Holy Body.
Prophecy - ministry – teaching – preaching – giving – being careful – mercy deeds – brotherly love – worshipping – distributing to the needs of the saints – given to Hospitality – empathy. These are all mentioned in (Romans 12).
Therefore, each member in the body has a different function to build the whole body. St. Paul spoke about co-operation (in spite of our differences), unity (in spite of diversity) (1 Corinthians Chapter 12)…….please refer to it.
4. TESTIMONY IN THE COMMUNITY
Christianity does not separate us from society but rather send us as messengers of love, kindness and peace. St. Paul gives us advice in (Romans 12). Refer to the following verses Given to hospitality (Romans 12:13 Repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17)
Have regard for good things in the sight of all men (Romans 12:18)
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21)
This is the “radical change” which makes good overcome all evil. Ghandi said: “If we followed the rule of “an eye for an eye, the whole world would have been blind.” What would the Lord say? He says: “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This way evil diminishes and good grows!!
B. How Do I Change?
The Holy Bible and the Orthodox Church have outlined for us, the change we need, could only be fulfilled through our own personal effort and God’s grace.
1. HUMAN EFFORT
We have to make the effort for our own salvation. The early fathers said: “God, who created you without you, would not save you without you”. This struggle comes in many different forms:
a. Sincerity: Jesus asked the paralysed: “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6).
The Spirit of God rebukes me when I sin but do I want to repent and get rid of my sins? Do I want to live for the Lord? The Holy Spirit works in me but I have to be affirmative. Jesus said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20).
He does not impose Himself on us, only if I heard and opened the door, He will come in and dine with me.
b. Making The Effort: It is impossible to just surrender to sin and not make the effort to stand against it:
- protect your senses: in what we hear – say or watch- pure relations: salvation is too far away among corrupted friends
- resist sin: try your best not to fall into sin and avoid places of excitement
if I slip, I get up: don’t stay in sin, repent and have confession to get the absolution and advice from the priest
c. Spiritual Satisfaction: “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb” (Proverbs 27:7). It is important to fulfil myself with all means of blessings e.g. prayers and
praising – Holy Bible – Holy Communion – good acquaintances – spiritual reading – spiritual meetings – fasting etc.
d. Stay Awake: is to watch myself, observing my senses and behaviour, expect spiritual battles, stand against the wiles of the devil, put on the armour of God as mentioned in (Ephesians 6)
2. THE DIVINE GRACE
The human being is limited and the devil is stronger, the body rebels against the soul and the world around us is full of excitements. What can we do in the midst of all this? Only God can save us, because He is:
- unlimited in His love
- unlimited in His wisdom
- unlimited in His power (omnipotent)
Therefore, when we fulfil ourselves with all means of blessings, God’s grace will come upon us. We can then say with the apostle: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) The grace of God is subject to:
1. Justification: we have redemption through His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, He paid for them.
2. Salvation: we are saved from the original sin by Baptism, from our committed sins by our spiritual struggle, repentance, confession and fulfilment of our spiritual needs.
3. Sanctification: when God’s spirit comes upon us, our bodies become sacred temples for the Lord. We have been anointed 36 times with the Chrism (Holy Myron Oil)
4. Glorification: to feel that we are God’s children while living on earth, at the resurrection we will have spiritual bodies and we will be raised to heaven. We will inherit the Kingdom of heaven and live with Jesus. With our effort and the divine grace of God, we will change to the better.
Our struggle + Divine Grace = Change for the better