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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
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
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. Psalm 133:1
Good morning Prayer Team!
We seem to obsess over the concepts of unity, fairness and equality. Thinking on the concept of equality, there are very few measures where people are equal. We are equal in the eyes of the law, we equally share the same environment, but in most ways, human beings are different. Take any relationship and test it for equality—one person will initiate more phone calls, one will talk more, one will have more hair, one will ask more questions, etc. The older I get, the more I realize that achieving a sense of unity is not based on making everything equal but on the concept of mutuality, the mutual good of a relationship—be that with a friend, or on a societal level.
In Ephesians 4: 11-13, St. Paul writes “And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
In this passage, St. Paul does not say that an apostle is more important than a prophet, or that a pastor is more important than a teacher. Rather all work for the same goals—equipping the saints for the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ, with the hope that all will attain unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. This is mutuality, when all do their part for the mutual good of all. The part of each is different, and we need all the parts to make the whole work.
Who is more important, the farmer or the doctor? Many people would think that the doctor is more important. Many parents would love to see their children as doctors rather than being farmers. However, without the farmer, there is no food, and without the truck driver to get the food from the farm to the store, there is no food for us to buy. And without a store clerk to put the food on the shelves, and a maintenance staff to keep the store clean, and without some quality control worker to make sure the food is safe for consumption, none of us would have a need for a doctor to keep us well because we’d perish from starvation.
Therefore, all of the jobs are important. And it’s not trying to rank or equalize the jobs. Rather it is celebrating that each job is necessary, each role can work for the mutual good of society.
Unity means to be on the same page. It doesn’t mean equal. We can achieve unity with God, but we will never be His equal. Again, using the words of Saint Paul from Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Saint Paul directs us to put truth, honor, justice, purity, love, and graciousness as priorities.
Mutuality allows for individual achievement but in the context of the greater good. Diversity is good, so long as it doesn’t lead to division. Are these lofty ideas—diversity without division, and individual achievement while working toward a mutual good? Yes, they are. Nothing worthy in life is easy. The goal is unity, for this is how we live pleasant lives, in the words of the Psalmist.
Unity (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Is my life being lived congruent or incongruent to the scriptures and the tenets of our faith? Do I see to live in unity with God’s commandments? Do I make decisions thinking about how Christ expects me to act?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down one thing that you do that is not totally in line with God’s commandments and then set a goal for how to bring yourself more into unity with God’s expectations.
Unity (from a relationship perspective)—Do I work toward a common good? Am I a unifier? Am I a divider?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Think of instances where you have a choice whether to be a unifier or a divider. And then make a plan for how to be a unifier the next time that instance occurs.
Lord, thank You for the gifts You have given me. (list your specific gifts and talents and thank God for them). Help me to use what You have given me to glorify You today. Help me to be someone who brings people together rather than someone who pushes them apart. Help me to see the good in the gifts of others around me. May I work for unity and mutuality in all my relationships today. Amen.
Look for opportunities to be a unifier today!
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Photo Credit: Unity of Bellevue
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