From the editor: October 24, 2014
How to Make a Good Killing
In the First Hour (early morning) of prayer in the Orthodox Church, we pray Psalm 5, among others, which includes the verse, "O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch."
How can a follower of Jesus Christ pray this verse? Christians do not offer sacrifices, as did the Jewish people during the Temple period. And even now, the Jews no longer offer sacrifices, but offer their prayers and synagogue worship in place of sacrifice.
So what constitutes the sacrifice the devout Christian offers to the Lord? Paul teaches that we are "to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." We can only do this if we hand over our lives daily to the service of Christian love, which includes giving up our self-centered desires for the sake of loving others. That is not easy. It requires accepting the Lord's invitation, "Take up your cross daily and follow me."
Following Jesus is not just for apostles, but for all disciples, for all nations. Observing his commandments requires daily sacrifices. Our bodies, then, as as lived among our fellow creatures, are carrying "the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal bodies." Faith is not something merely in the mind, but shared through the body. We live differently. We labor for Christ. We serve others by using our hands, bodies, eyes, ears, and mouths.
James, the Lord's brother, writes of the wise Christian: "by his life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." The "wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits," that is to say, it gives up: impure thoughts and deeds, wrath and abuse, insisting on its own way, putting oneself first, and satisfaction with material wealth, a balance sheet or portfolio, instead of good fruit. (3:17)
James gave his life, dying as a martyr for Jesus in A.D. 62. In the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 70, the Christians of Jerusalem, who had been taught by James, refused to participate in the killing and fled to Pella across the Jordan (see Luke 21:20-24). Afterwards, they were generally despised by the Jews who supported the uprising. The Jewish Christians became ostracized.
In a sense, Christians still offer a daily sacrifice by killing: "Put to death what is earthly in you" (the list of these things is found in Colossians 3:5)" and then, by living: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another . . . ; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (If it doesn't take a sacrifice for you to do this, you must not be from around here!)
The Cross of Jesus stands before us each day. We either carry it, or put Jesus back on it, not really accepting him as Lord of our life. He is meek and lowly of heart and does not coerce. Neither should we. We can admit our inability to do anything without him, or we can pretend we're just fine on our own, day to day. Yes, he is so meek that he lets us have our way, it seems.
Of course, the wise course is to follow His lead, take up His yoke, and find true rest for our souls. He also comes to judge the living and the dead. So each morning, sacrifice—and watch.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James