Not Me Before You
Me Before You. It’s an interesting title of a movie that Pres. Faith and I watched the other day. Me Before You. When I saw that title, I wondered what that meant? What would the movie be about – Me Before You. It sounds quite self-centered.
Well, it turned out that it was a love story about a charming self-giving woman trying to win over a tragic, self-centered paraplegic man. Parts of the movie were a delightful love story, yet in the end, as the title warned, the man put himself before everyone else, before his parents and even before the woman who loved him, and he chose to end his life, to kill himself, to commit euthanasia. Because his life was his own, and he could do whatever he wanted with his life.
Well, the entire spirit of this man in the movie was so contrary to Good News of Great Joy we just heard at Christmas, and with the entire message we believe and hope in through the Christian gospel. Our faith teaches us that it can never be “Me Before You.” In fact, our life as Christians is not even our own. Life is not even about me. According to Scriptures, when we become Christians, we understand how our life is God’s, and our entire spiritual journey is a journey into fuller and more complete union with God.
If we have sincerely experienced Christ’s birth a few days ago, and invited Him to be born anew in our hearts and lives, then we understand that we are changed people! Life is not focused on ME, but on God. Encountering Jesus, and allowing Him to be born anew in our lives transforms our motives, our values, our attitudes, and our entire worldview! Meeting Christ means we can’t stay the same because we discover a new potential, our divine calling and destiny. Remember St. Athanasios’ words that “God became man so that we could become godlike.” Any life that is self-centered, superficial, focused on material things, concentrated on power and fame, and basically a life without eternal meaning should no longer be satisfying. In Bethlehem, and then in Nazareth and Galilee, and eventually in Jerusalem and Golgatha, we discover a new and better way to live, a new path to walk, a life with eternal meaning and significance, a life of sacrificial and divine love.
As we end one year, and begin a new one, here lies a vision that can guide and direct us. Many people at this time of year think of resolutions to better their lives – whether a resolution for weight loss, or to be more responsible with one’s money and pay off some debts, or to exercise more, or read more, or spend more time with our loved ones, or whatever else it may be, the purpose of resolutions basically is to improve one’s life.
And yet, maybe our resolutions are too little, maybe our vision is too small! If we truly want to better our lives, than we have to first discover what the main purpose in our life is. Why were we created? What is our purpose in this brief sojourn on earth? What does God expect from us? Wouldn’t our Creator know what’s best for us? And if so, then are we seeking to discover the abundant life that God desires for each one of us?!? To learn that life is not about ME, but about God!
Let’s think of the New Year as a new and fresh journey. Whenever someone begins a journey, he or she needs to know what their destination is. And if we have no clear destination, than we can go and go and go, but never get anywhere! Even worse, we can go around in circles and end up in places we had no intention to visit.
Our goal as Christians in 2017 must be to develop a more intimate, authentic, life-creating relationship with God, and through that relationship with God to discover a beautiful relationship with the other, with our neighbor. Christian progress depends upon how we show our love for God by showing concrete love to the other, especially to the less fortunate.
Although success for many in the world means more money, pleasure, entertainment, and enjoyment of life, success for the saints of God always implied faithfulness to God’s commandments, especially His first and greatest commandment to love God and the other.
If we make this our central New Year’s resolutions, then we are an exciting path of transformation! The next step, however, is to think about HOW we can reach this goal?
Well, a few suggestions. First, we must strive to connect and communicate with God on a daily basis. This implies setting aside time each day to talk with Him and to listen to Him - through disciplined prayer, reading of Holy Scriptures, and simply dwelling in His presence.
Second, we must try to apply in our lives what God commands. This is not what we always want to do. Many times, God calls us to follow a difficult path of loving and serving and forgiving those who are difficult to love and forgive. Yet, we don’t do it because it’s easy, or because we want to do it. We do it because our love for God compels us to imitate Him. Remember, we can only come as close to God as we are to our worst enemy. And love is the central way we can draw closer to God.
Third, we must learn to share our faith with others, and become good witnesses of God to the world around us. Our faith is not a private affair, but something we are called to offer the world around us. Jesus calls us the light of the world. He commands us to be the salt that flavors the society we live in. Never consider your faith a private affair!
Finally, we can do all this only when we do it together, in fellowship with one another. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. We are the Church, the Body of Christ, a community of believers walking together on the same journey with the same destination. Let us choose to make this journey with one another.
It is through these disciplines that we can experience a new and better way to live, a new path to walk, a life with eternal meaning and significance.
Life is not about ME. It is NOT Me Before You. It is YOU, GOD, before all else! You are first in my life. Let us strive to make this our ultimate goal for the new year.
Myron the Martyr of Cyzicus; Straton, Philip, Eutychian, & Cyprian the Martyrs of Nicomedea; Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; Demetrios the New, Righteous-Martyr of Samaria; Eutychios, Eutychianos and Kassiani the siblings; Paul, Juliana, and those martyred with them (the executioners)