Motto: “I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil”
[I epistle of St. John 2:13]
By Rev. Fr. Basil (Vasile) Mihoc, professor of theology
My beloved, victory requires struggle. There is no victory without a battle. We live in a world where it is desired that people, and especially the youth, may be defeated in their struggle and “freed” to become enslaved.
If we observe the demonic work around us, we can see its deception for it wants to give us the impression that in fact, there is no need for a spiritual battle. Many passions are now proclaimed as the norm and it’s no longer desired to fight against them! The enemy hides itself but is at work: “I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil” says St John, the apostle of love. The enemy has become very cleaver and it gives us the impression – in various ways – that there’s no need to fight.
In our times, even some churches proclaim a Christ that is nice and sweet, a “new Christ” that accepts man’ sins as normal and unfortunately many so-called “churches” have fallen into this trap. In the West, there are church’ leaders that proclaim loud and clear that the sins against human nature [i.e. homosexuality] are normal. Why not accepting gay couples as normal or why not have priests possessed by such ugly passions? Why not a “Christ” that is a nice guy?… So they’re troubled when they encounter Orthodox Christianity and see icons that depict a Christ who is too serious!
Recently, I was asked by an Orthodox layman, why Christ doesn’t smile in our icons? … so He can look cute. Our Christ is too serious!
My beloved, Christ is serious for He sees the wickedness of the evil one and to what extent we are affected by it!
Life is a serious thing and it involves battle against evil. If you are not aware of this struggle you are the victim of the devil.
“I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” – again, victory implies struggle. Any serious thing in this life is gained through hard work! Through a disciplined battle, an ascetical struggle as St. Paul puts it: “He who strives for an earthly crown practices self control…”
But the Apostle of love [St. John the Evangelist] continues:
“I wrote unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one”.
We can say that this second word of the apostle addressed to the youth comes with details on this victory. The victory doesn’t just happen by itself.
“I wrote unto you, young men, because ye are strong” – do we realize the youth that the Apostle John was referring to, when he wrote these words? A strong youth!
It seems that we do not know many strong young people today!
Today’s youth seems very fragile spiritually as they are systematically weakened, almost programmed, I may say. Today, we live in a world that weakens the spirit, the people and of course it exercises this the most on our children, in our youth. In order to be strong you need to be strengthened.
There are young people who dream to have strong muscles – so they exercise their body. Sure, this is not a bad thing if it’s done in moderation. But very few young people long for the spiritual strength, the saintly’ strength of an athlete in Christ!
Many long for adventure and dream of a life full of interesting things…
I’d like to tell you that the most exciting adventure is a life lived in Christ. If you desire a life full of wonderful surprises then begin a life in Christ, which is a narrow path in the beginning but it expands as you travel on. This path begins in your heart, the point where Christ meets you and as you advance on it, it widens to the infinite, reaching the Kingdom of God.
The path of sin is broad and it seems wide at first, but it continuously narrows until it reaches a dead-end, where there is no way out.
The narrow path however, requires discipline, struggle and seriousness but by advancing on it, it will reveal itself in its lovely infinity.
So, do you think you’re strong?
To become strong one has to be fortified by the means that we Christians been offered by the power of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. “You are strong and the word of God abideth in you”.
In fact, the explanation follows in Matthew 13 in the parable of the sower; in this parable, it is said that the seed is the word of the kingdom, so we call it God’s word, but in Matthew, it is especially called “the word of the kingdom”.
Does this word “Kingdom”[Βασιλεία του Θεού or vasileia tou theou] or the Kingdom of God interest you, does it find any meaning in your lives today?
Some have devalued its meaning as we see in some places, the houses of the kingdom or the Jehovah’s homes. So, for many the word “kingdom” [βασιλεία – or Vasilia] has lost its meaning.
My beloved, let it not be so! The saving word of Christ is the “word of the kingdom”. We must also consider its substrate [βασιλεία]which in Aramaic is “Malkuta” or the “word of the kingdom of God”! God is accepted as King, He reigns, but this implies that we are reining with Him! It’s an adventure to become king, isn’t? The Lord calls us to this adventure – to reign with Him in His Kingdom!
This word must remain in us… The parable in Mathew gives us a lesson, saying that the seed of the word is often stolen quickly once was sown on stony ground or among thorns. Only some of the seed falls on good ground and bear fruit, one 30, other 60, and another 100 fruits. When St. John the evangelist talks about the youth that is strong, he means that “the word of the kingdom” remains in this youth, and it is not easily stolen, or stifled. It is His word that is germinating, growing, blooming and bears fruit within us. When the word of God abideth within you, says the Apostle, you have overcome the evil one.
Every time we say the Our Father, we ask to be delivered from the evil one!
“You have overcome the evil one” – the devil is this evil one that lurks our lives, our eternal lives, but also this physical life. He wans us to become lost on the way.
My beloved youth, we are called to a victorious battle! We confess Christ as the One who overcomes evil. On the Holy Cross we read these inscripted words: Jesus Christ NI KA – Jesus Christ who overcomes [conquerors]. He calls us to be victorious in this fight with Him, in this adventurous wonderful battle for the Kingdom of God. Amen.