My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we contemplate the victory of the Resurrection, let us look to its ramifications to us. Too often we try to relegate our Savior to a simple mathematical equation. God is love and God loves me ergo I cannot do anything that would cause God to not love me. By this same line of thinking, God made me this way so clearly He wants me to behave this way. God gave me these desires. This sort of justification can be used for any number of sinful behaviors.
The alternative that I hear just as often, is the expression, “Well, I am only human,” which implies that because Jesus is God He cannot expect me to live up to His level of Holiness.
That line of thinking could not be further from the truth on either end. First and foremost the term “Son of God,” is only found 35 times in the Bible. Compare that to the 173 times “Son of man,” is uttered and you begin to see the more important of those epithets. Jesus Christ more often than any other title, refers to Himself as the Son of man. This is because He desires to show kinship with us. He was 100% Man with 100% human will, and 100% human energies. That does not change the fact that He is also 100% God with 100% divine will and 100% divine energies. This paradoxical yet perfect union is one of the primary subjects of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in seeking to answer the question of Who and What is Jesus Christ.
Let us not forget our Lord’s humanity. He wept, He slept, He ate, He was tempted. He experienced every aspect of our humanity. As St. Gregory the Theologian states, “That which is not assumed, is not saved.” If Jesus Christ was not a perfect and complete human being, none of us could be saved. Jesus would have been a pretender, a fraud, a hoax, a supernatural being parading in a human suit. Because He suffered and died for us as a perfect human being, He became the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45–49), the new אָדָם (adam hebrew) Humanity, ἄνθρωπος (Anthropos).
And let us be clear. He is the only true and real human being. He is the only Human with true free will. Those who have become like him have become real humans, the saints. As St. Athanasios writes, “God became man so that man could become like God.”
After all, is it real free will if you can only choose between A or B? Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We can only choose between following our passions as which are orchestrated for our downfall by the enemy, or become voluntary slaves of God. Δούλοι του Θεού. A servant cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24), gives clear recognition that we are slaves, one way or another. That is not freedom. Our only freedom is choosing which master to follow.
And yet, we were made with free will, the highest of gifts. The reality is that by becoming voluntary slaves of God and emptying ourselves, we acquire the Holy Spirit and we open the eyes of our heart/soul (our Nous Νοῦς) to see the mystical reality of the world. Real free will entails being able to choose to do good without the influence of God. Only the Saints who have achieved Deification θέωσις (theosis) can truly claim to be human.
To say, “I am only human” as a sign of weakness denigrates the word. We are the height of Creation. Human weakness is better expressed as the personal failings of our passions that are a result of the Fall of Mankind. Our weaknesses and sinful desires do not come from God the Creator but from him who warps that creation into a mockery of the divine; who replaces humility with arrogance, self control with gluttony, generosity with avarice, forgiveness with wrath, simplicity with vanity, diligence with sloth, and love with carnal lusts. The evil one sends all manner of thoughts our way, hoping that even one of the thousands upon thousands thrown will stick to us and cause us to think on that irrational and sinful thought more deeply. He hopes that by thinking of that thought more deeply, we will contemplate enacting it; that we will justify it in our minds; and finally do the dark thought. His victory is complete when that dark thought is repeated in action until it becomes a habit, a habit that require spiritual surgery to remove.
You see, the most evil moment of that progression is the step in which we justify our sin. We try to tell ourselves that God made us a certain way or that He would approve of our decision given the circumstances. Instead of following obediently the Commandments of God, we follow our own perversions and our own made-up reality of what we think God is. This makes God an idea or a principle.
But God is not an idea or a principle. He is a person. He is a human being with a human will in addition to His divine will. This is why His death and resurrection mean so much! By dying for us He freed us from the ancient error. He ransomed Himself for our sins and became the final Blood Sacrifice. Through Him we become heirs of the Most High. We become partakers of Divinity. We can truly learn what it means to be free.
It is true that God is love and there is no sin that He won’t forgive outside of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but that forgiveness requires repentance, requires love, requires obedience to Him. This obedience is not arduous. He helps us carry our cross. He is our true example of humanity and humility.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I remain your servant in Christ,
Fr. Dimitri Tobias,