Saturday Sermon: Life in this world is preparation for eternity
During a recent interview, a celebrity commented that he was not religious because he "had a problem" with "anything that says, 'we have all the answers.'" He added, "Religion leaves no room for human complexity."
Some of his misunderstanding may come fro-m the celebrity's admitted lack of real experience with religion. However, in his defense, I know many, even Christians, who suffer from the same misperception and present their faith as a syllabus of right answers.
His observations do not agree with my own experience as an Orthodox Christian. Religion is not all about simple, complete answers. Those whose religion consists of easy, pat answers aren't asking the right questions. My own faith, in fact, is more about questions than answers.
Far from leaving no room for complexity, religion actually opens us up to the real mysteries of our existence. There is so much more to human nature than can be explained by chemistry and physics. We cannot understand the complexities of our behavior, the interplay of our virtues and vices, in purely physical terms. Our desires and dreams cannot be explained merely by animal instinct. Our physical nature cannot explain our yearning for something higher and more spiritual.
If anything, my faith reveals new mysteries about my behavior and that of others. True, it gives me insights into the origins of problems and situations, but it also challenges me to seek, not answers, but solutions.
Above all, faith leads me to seek and build relationships. Faith reveals that life is not questions, but struggles; it is not finding answers, but growing. It teaches me about dealing with situations and with people through patience, humility, compassion and love.
Life in this world is preparation for eternity. Nicholas Cavasilas, a spiritual writer of seven centuries ago, used this image: if we go to another country, we get more out of our time there if we already know its language and customs. Otherwise our time there will be filled with troubles and misunderstandings, difficulties, confusion, even pain.
It is the same with the kingdom of God. We will spend eternity in that kingdom. The life and language of God's kingdom is love. Our time now is the school where we learn to love, to prepare ourselves to live eternally with the God who is love.
I don't need to have all the answers. My faith leads me to appreciate "human complexity," both my own and that of others. My religion is a journey into the realm of God's grace and mercy. His love led him to take on my humanity, to die and to rise from the dead to enable me to love. He embraced me in my weakness, that he might fill me with his strength and peace.
My religion opens to me the great mystery beyond all questions and answers - the living experience of God's love for me and of his grace, which leads me to love him in return and to share his love with others.
The Rev. Dimitri Cozby is the pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church, Victoria.