THE STRUGGLE OF A CHRISTIAN
“I do not dot he good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Romans 7:19.
Indeed, how much truth there is to be found in these poignant words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 7, Verse 19. How much of a challenge is placed before each and everyone of us, as we likewise experience, to a greater or lesser degree, this same personal agony of man and self, as expressed so aptly by St. Paul in this quotation.
In one sentence, it spells out the ‘guts’, so to speak of man’s personal struggle with his own self, his inability to communicate with his own being and his agony in trying to relate to himself. We hear mentioned oftentimes these days the so-called generation-gap, which supposedly exists between today’s youth and those of us who are over 30 years of age, as an expression of the inability of one generation to communicate with the other.
As real as this generation-gap may be, the intensity of the struggle of man and self far outweighs this social gap, and is indeed of greater dimension and of greater consequences. Here, too, there is a gap between man and his inner being, man and his ground of being. For man’s struggle to communicate with his own self seems almost endless and yet at the same time it is of the utmost importance. This agony of man and self is indeed most aptly expressed by St. Paul in these words, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
It can be said that this struggle of man in search of self can be appeased initially by applying Socrates’ basic maxim, “Know thyself.”
We need to engage in a dialogue with our inner being. We need to come to know ourselves as we really are by engaging in such a dialogue, whereby we will discover our weak points as well as our strong ones. Dialogue is the answer. Christ showed us, time and time, that truth and understanding can only be attained by dialogue, be it with the self, with our fellow man or with God.
The necessity of man to become conscious of who and what he is is most fundamental. Otherwise, man is bent, destined to self-destruction. For have you ever stopped to consider who is man’s worst enemy? It is neither communism, nor materialism, nor any other hedonistic philosophy, but rather it is man himself. Each and every one of us is his or her own worst enemy. And how is that? Did you ever stop to consider that the most sinful act committed, the most impure thought entertained and the most cruel word uttered do not originate outside of man, but proceed from man himself? We can do more harm to ourselves than any one person or group of persons could ever conceive in doing. Man is his own worst enemy! Behold the words of St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” By the same token, Plato expressed this concept of two forces in man in his PHAEDRUS, wherein he depicts the soul of his charioteer desperately seeking to control two horses intent on going in the opposite directions. Behold the dichotomy of man — for the one force seeks to take the soul upward, whereas, the other force tries to drag it downward. “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” The first “I” accepts the responsibility for what the second “I” does. Once having succeeded to some degree in this act of introspection and catharsis, whereby man has come to recognize who and what he is, it follows by necessity that he realize that he must change his ways. To accomplish this, man must experience the sincere and genuine desire to change, to be spiritually reborn, transformed, renewed, reconciled and reunited with Christ so that a new creature will come into being.
Once man has encountered himself, and has been spiritually reborn, then he can fully and completely commit himself to Christ. By committing ourselves to Christ, in the fullest sense of the word, we will discover that the “I” will decrease, and Christ will increase in us. As Christ begins to become the rudder of our lives, and permeates our being in depth, the ground of our being, we will discover for ourselves what St. Paul mean when he said, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” This is what the Christ-centered life is all about.
Christianity, my friends, is at the crossroads. The role of an apathetic, complacent, indifferent Chrsitian is a luxury which the Christian community can no longer afford.
What the world needs now is individuals, young and old alike, clergy andlaity, committed fully and completely to Christ and His Church. The Orthodox Church in particular demands and rightly expects of its Orthodox faithful that they exhibit in action a vital, dynamic and living faith, not a wishy-washy kind of faith, here today, gone tomorrow, but a real, iron-clad faith, yes a faith that will move mountains. Such a faith will lessen the reality of man’s struggle with self as expressed by St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do,” and will replace it with another expression of St. Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."