When something terrible happens, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people quickly look for answers. As I mentioned in my post about that horrible tragedy, I think we need to take more time to grieve and heal before we start pointing fingers and assigning blame.
In a prior post, I discussed why evil exists in the world. I’d highly recommend reading that post before this one in order to help you understand the Eastern Orthodox teachings on God’s Energies and how they relate to evil.
Where to begin
I strongly believe that the largest and most important step in cleansing the world of evil is to start with ourselves. Our Lord Jesus criticized people who tried to remove the speck from their brother’s eye, but didn’t see the 2×4 in their own eye. If you don’t think this applies to you, that there are others who are much worse sinners than you, then you (along with the rest of humanity) are one of the people Jesus was referring to.
In every Orthodox liturgy, we confess, “I am the chief of sinners.” Until someone actually believes that, they will never be able to fight the evil that is in their own heart. When I first came across that phrase, it was in a letter written by St Paul (1 Tim 1:15). I remember thinking, “Yeah, I can understand that, Paul. You were a bad dude. You went around killing and jailing Christians. I’m not nearly that bad.”
I assumed it was a mark of either an insecure Christian or one who did not understand redemption to even consider themselves a sinner. We’re sons of God, not sinners. But truly it is both. We are children of God by his grace, but we are still sinners struggling with our flesh day-to-day.
Going back to the passage in 1st Timothy, Paul states that this is a saying that is “trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, ‘that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’” An often overlooked detail is that this wasn’t just a confession Paul was making, it was the expected attitude of every Christian!
No reform without it
Until we are willing to recognize our own faults, whether they be greed, lust, envy, selfishness, etc, we will never see any great reforms in society. Christians must be the example of purity. As it stands, it seems most people think we Christians are either mean and judgmental, or somewhat nicer than the average person. God didn’t come into this world to make judgmental hypocrites or even ‘nice guys,’ he came to heal us and teach us to love one another deeply so that we can change the whole world.
Does that mean there isn’t room for reform of our laws or law enforcement? Certainly not. But what I would love to see is people spending more time meditating each day on bringing their own sins to Christ than they spend signing petitions on Facebook, reading articles about gun control, or anything else that attempts to bring change upon society from external forces. Truly, that kind of change is the easier route, but what good is it if we are not taking time to analyze ourselves deeply every day?
So, you want to make this world a better place? Awesome. So do I. What many of us don’t realize is that our actions and choices are like a pebble thrown into a pond. The entire surface of the water changes as the ripples extend well beyond where the pebble landed. The things we do and say reach far beyond ourselves.
Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian author, wrote ““Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Therein lies the world’s biggest problem.
Our words and actions are either healing or destroying the world immediately around us. We hardly see the repercussions, but they exist. The ripples may appear instantly or take days, months, or years to surface. With the invention of the internet, our ripples can extend all over the world.
So, how do we start changing ourselves so that we can change the world around us? The best place to start is inner prayer.
There is an ancient Christian prayer known as the “Jesus prayer” that has been prayed for well over a thousand years. It is simple and goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Christians all over the world repeat this prayer constantly throughout the day.
For me, acknowledging that I am a sinner is not a burden. It is rather the opposite. I find my time of confession to be liberating. I am telling Jesus that he is my Lord, that I am a sinner, and I am accepting his mercy. I simply can’t imagine any real change occurring in me without that prayer or something similar to it.
So, as you go through this day or evening, take a moment to confess your sins to God. He is not an angry God. Rather, he is a loving Father who wants to see you healed. Ask him to shine his Light on the dark areas of your heart that need his healing. It is a beautiful and rewarding process, and it is the only way to cleanse the evil from this world because the process begins with you and me.