Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Good morning Prayer Team!
Yesterday we talked about honesty and why it is important to be honest in relationships. It can be difficult to be honest in a relationship if one is not sure about the commitment of the other party(parties) in the relationship. For instance, in a work setting, let’s say that an employee is really struggling and needs help. If the employer has a culture that tells the employees, “you are all expendable”, then the struggling employee might hesitate to be honest for fear of being replaced. If the employer, however, creates a culture that tells the employees “you are valuable and we are here to help you be your best,” this implied commitment will make it easier to be honest when the going gets tough.
I remember back in high school, I was the goalkeeper on our soccer team. I was not our star player, that is for sure, and the coach for some reason, never really was very encouraging. I remember before one game, he said to me “If you let in a goal today, I am not going to play you tomorrow.” Now, everyone responds to this kind of challenge in a different way. For some, this kind of challenge would be motivating, some might get angry, some might become nervous, anxious and fearful. I was in the last category. His challenge made me nervous. I didn’t enjoy playing that day at all. Thankfully, I played well enough and no goals went in my net. However, for the rest of that season, when a goal went in, I always wondered if I had played my last game. Had the coach said to me “you’re my guy, today, tomorrow, win or lose, relax and play well,” I would have actually played better. And I certainly would have enjoyed playing more.
When there is a commitment, it is easier to be honest. When people in a relationship cultivate an environment where they are constantly restating their commitment, their loyalty and their interest, it is easier to be honest. Because disagreements or misstatements, or mistakes, can be dealt with more easily, and the relationship easily restored if something goes wrong.
I’ve found it helpful to have some “rules” and “boundaries” in relationships, some of which can be implied, and some of which can even be stated. Speaking personally about my work as a priest, specifically in the sacrament of confession, many times the person who is coming to confession will tell me before they begin that they are nervous, nervous about what I might think of them when they are done. And many times, I’ll state “I love and respect you now, and I’ll love and respect you when we are finished.” Now, a boundary has been established. The person confessing does not need to worry that whatever they say will affect our relationship. They are now free to be honest. And to be honest, my opinion of people tends to go up after confession, because as you’ll read in a future relationship, love grows where there is vulnerability. And where can one be more vulnerable than in discussing their spiritual shortcomings?
In relationships, it is important to be “faithful.” In the context of marriage, people think that being “faithful” means to not commit adultery, to not cheat on their spouse. Being faithful, however, means more than that. There are plenty of marriages where the spouses haven’t cheated sexually but are not faithful to their spouses. Because faithful means being “checked in” on the relationship, being consistently present in the relationship, showing up regularly in the relationship.
Let’s put faithfulness and commitment next to our relationship with Christ. I’ve never cheated on Christ, in terms of leaving the church or trying another faith. But I am not always faithful, not always checked in on my faith. I’m not always consistent in prayer and other spiritual disciplines like fasting. I am not always committed to keeping the commandments. Being a faithful and committed Christian means living out the faith constantly. It means sticking with Christ in good times and in bad ones. Many of us treat Christ like my high school coach treated me—if You come through for me, I’ll stick with You. I can’t tell you how many people have told me about the “deals” they’ve made with God—if I get this job, I’ll be in church Sunday, is one example.
You can’t have a relationship with a friend or a spouse with a large degree of commitment, consistency, loyalty and faithfulness. And the same thing goes for our relationship with Christ.
Commitment (from a spiritual perspective)—Am I a committed Christian and does my daily life reflect that? Do I only go to God when things are good? Do I stay away from God when things are bad?
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Write down some ways that you can live out your Christian life on a more consistent basis.
Commitment (from a relationship perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Am I loyal to my friends? Can I be counted on in time of need? Do I stay in relationships even when they go through rough patches? Do I take steps to make friendships stronger?
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Write down some ways that can bring a better sense of commitment into your relationships. Establish a culture in friendships that regularly reaffirms their value. When you have a rough patch, reaffirm and recommit to the relationship.
Lord, thank You for creating me and for committing to my salvation through Your death on the cross. Help me to be more committed to You. Speak good things into my heart, especially during difficult times. Help me to be a more committed friend. Help me to create a culture of commitment in my relationships with others. Give us patience to work through rough patches. Help me to always strive to be a faithful Christian who gives You glory every day. Amen.
Be a committed Christian and committed friend in good times and in rough ones.
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