Daily Reflection for June 22, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 22  •  Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata

Why does the good Lord permit assaults and sufferings on the True Faith while He permits the pleasure of tranquility to heresies and paganism? Why? Even St. John Chrysostom asks and immediately replies: “So that you would recognize their weakness (the weakness of the heresies and paganism) when you see that they disintegrate on their own without any disturbance and also to be convinced in the power of faith which endures misfortunes and even multiplies through its adversaries.” “Therefore, if we quarrel with the pagans or with the wretched Jews, it is sufficient to emphasize as evidence of divine power that the Faith (Christianity) which was subjected to countless struggles maintained victory” even when the entire world stood against her [the Church]. St. Isaac the Syrian says: “The wondrous love of God toward man is recognized when man is in misfortunes that are destroying his hope. Here, God manifests His power for his [man’s] salvation. For man never recognizes the power of God in tranquility and freedom.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
            What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
            Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
(Romans 7:4-13)

St. Paul’s take on the place of “law” in the life of a Christian is very nuanced. On the one hand, in this passage from Romans, he reminds us we are “dead to the law,” so that we can be united to God through the death and resurrection of His Son. Being “dead” to the law is essentially the understanding that the Lord has fulfilled the law in Himself and, tied together with Paul’s teaching on faith and grace, has allowed us to transcend and not be tied to the law. Our relationship with the Lord is one of love and grace, not a juridical relationship of dos and don’ts. We are called to “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Does that mean St. Paul teaches us that how we behave does not matter? Of course not.

The law still has incredible importance for Christians because it lays down parameters for us. Laws define sin and holiness for us. When Paul says he would not have known covetousness unless the law had said “You shall not covet,” we see the value of the law before grace. We can use the law as a measuring stick for our own choices. Using Paul’s example, we can say “Should I covet?” for the question might be a common question among human beings. One might even argue (as does St. Paul) that unless someone says “coveting something is wrong,” I might be held blameless for not knowing it is a sin. The reverse is also true: when I keep the law, I know that my behavior is good and positive.

Paul’s words today simply remind us that sin is sin and it produces death in everyone. But the law illuminates sin to us and allows us to see the enemy that we are fighting. We can never be satisfied and self-righteous in our behavior, no matter how holy it might be. But we can be confident that when we examine our behavior in light of the commandments of Christ, we can be led to true repentance and salvation.