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564Homily for 11/10/13 - P20 - Sincerity

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  • David
    Nov 10, 2013
      Galatians 1:11-19

      Often we hear how important it is to believe with great sincerity or
      conviction. This is put forth even to the point of excusing mistakes
      because one fully believed they were doing the right thing. While they
      may have been wrong, their intentions were good and so we excuse their
      error. To a certain extent this is a good trait since it makes a
      differentiation between one who has intentionally caused harm to others
      and those who were trying to the best of their ability to do something
      good for others. The first person, the one who intentionally causes
      harm, is in a dangerous condition, for their soul has been warped by
      evil and has become incapable of doing anything that is good. On the
      other hand the second person, the one who sincerely believes, even
      though in error, is in a less dangerous situation for they still seek to
      find that which is good and so are capable of doing that which is good
      once they find it.

      In the arena of the spiritual life, we see this same situation, but with
      a somewhat different perspective. Sincerity and conviction of belief are
      still important components of faith, however, they are not the most
      important components. Before the sincerity and conviction, one must
      first find the true faith. We see this today in the reading from the
      Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians. In describing his own heritage
      among the Jews, the Apostle describes his extreme zealousness which was
      born of a strong conviction and sincerity of his own belief. He gave
      himself wholeheartedly to what he thought was true and within the
      context of his belief, he was acting only for the greatest good not only
      for himself, but for his whole people. He was truly sincere in acting on
      his faith – but he was also wrong. All of his zeal, all of his effort,
      all of his actions, no matter how sincere, were at best of no value and
      in fact were detrimental to the condition of his soul because he was
      headed in the wrong direction.

      If a person desired to take a trip to New York and set out in the
      general direction of the east coast, he might indeed get to his
      destination eventually on his own. It is more likely, however, that
      without the proper directions he might end up someplace entirely
      unintended. Even if he were armed with a fervent desire to get to New
      York and a deep sincerity and intent of getting there, if he was using
      inaccurate or false directions, he wouldn’t make it at all. Now it’s
      easy to see how a map to Dallas might not help in getting to New York
      for those places are so far away that the true route would quickly
      diverge from the false. On the other hand the route to Washington DC
      would for a great distance run nearly parallel with that to New York but
      still in the end would miss the mark.

      Here we see one of the great dangers of misdirected sincerity since it
      is based in error and deception. When one sincerely follows a false
      path, it still leads away from the desired goal. If the path is
      radically different from the truth, that discrepancy will soon become
      obvious and one will be faced with a choice to either take the path to
      wherever it leads or to abandon the directions and seek out something
      new. As strange as it may seem, the idea that one would willingly follow
      a path leading away from their original destination is not completely
      unrealistic. Maybe the trip has been so enjoyable so far that it might
      seem good to just continue on to the new destination. Maybe just the
      idea of trying something new and different to see where it goes might be
      appealing. Maybe it’s too much trouble to change and well it’s all about
      the journey anyway. Whatever the reason might be, this is a decision
      that some people make. On the other hand, if the true and false paths
      seem to be close, then the impetus to change doesn’t come for a while
      and by that time, one may have invested so much in their choice that
      inertia makes it hard to change. Here we see the greatest danger of
      deception – the “best� lie is mostly true but departs from the truth at
      a critical point that may be too hard to recognize until it’s past.

      By adding sincerity to deception, an added danger is brought to the mix.
      Sincerity brings a persistence of following the chosen path despite all
      obstacles. This is a good trait when one is following the true path for
      there are always obstacles (and in the spiritual world those obstacles
      are purposely placed in our path by the evil one to keep us from
      following Christ), however, this same trait, when following a false path
      prevents a person from changing easily. Thus we can see that while in
      worldly matters an “evil� person is in greater danger for there is
      little possibility of change, in spiritual matters the sincere but
      deceived person is in the greater danger since he does not perceive
      himself as on the wrong path at all and so continues persistently on the
      path to eternal death.

      The Apostle Paul was such a one – a sincere follower of a false path. He
      was a dedicated and zealous member of the sect of the Pharisees, a group
      who desired to serve God by following the Law, but who ended up
      following the Law for the sake of the Law and lost sight of following
      God. His sincerity in following this path was so great that he began
      persecuting those who he saw as a danger – that is those who followed
      God in the path given by God Himself, the incarnate God/man Jesus
      Christ. While he sincerely sought to serve God, because of his delusion,
      he found himself fighting against God. His sincerity was so intense that
      it took a miraculous confrontation with Jesus Christ Himself in a vision
      for him to be shaken from his false path. We can see in the conversion
      of the Apostle the great compassion and mercy of our God who loves all
      men and desires that none perish. The Apostle was headed on a false path
      that for much of its course ran contiguous with the true path, but which
      had departed from the truth at a critical juncture and yet still ran
      closely parallel to the original. Despite his sincerity and strong
      adherence to the deception that he had embraced, God took the extreme
      measures necessary to pluck him from the false path of his error and to
      place him on the true path of faith in Jesus Christ. The sincerity which
      had once driven the Apostle Paul on his false path was now reattached to
      the truth and it became the tool by which the Apostle Paul evangelized
      most of Arabia and Europe, preaching the Gospel and establishing Churches.

      In our society today, it has become an accepted thought that sincerity
      of belief is more important than truth of belief – that if one is
      “sincere�, then it doesn’t matter if one is “right�. We assume that God
      will overlook our error if we are sincere and give us credit for doing
      what we thought was right. But this is not the witness of the Apostle
      Paul. His sincerity had him joined so firmly to his erroneous belief
      that it took a miracle to redirect him. His sincerity was not only
      getting him nowhere, but it was actually leading him away from his
      desired goal to serve God – so far away that without realizing it he had
      become God’s enemy. It is therefore necessary for us not only to believe
      and to be sincere – but before all that it is necessary to find the
      truth and embrace it, setting our feet on the true path of salvation and
      letting our sincerity keep us persistent in following Christ.

      At the end of every liturgy we sing this hymn, “We have seen the True
      Light; we have received the Heavenly Spirit; we have found the True
      Faith; worshipping the indivisible Trinity, for He hath saved us.�
      Indeed God has been merciful to us has brought us like the Apostle Paul
      to the true path of salvation. It is now necessary for us to follow this
      path with the same sincerity that the Apostle Paul exhibited in his
      life, holding tightly onto the treasury of faith which we have been
      given; overcoming the obstacles that the evil one places in our way; and
      telling others what we have found, so that they too might be brought out
      of the darkness of error and set on the path of the Light of Truth.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org