So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.

I Peter 5:1-6

At a recent Bible study, we were discussing humility as we read over a passage from the book of I Peter. And someone made the comment that there is a lack of humility in the world because so many are living by the motto “You be you.” You be you, whatever you want to be, whatever you want to do. I grew up with a lot of “you work hard” and “you study hard” and “you be on time” and “you be respectful” and “you follow the rules.” And while I was encouraged to develop my unique talents and interests, there was no “you be you” when it came to work ethic, promptness, respect and following rules.

Look around the world today and think about where this “you be you” attitude is getting us. Society, by and large has lost its work ethic, promptness, respect, and order, and what we have now is laziness, sloth, disrespect and chaos. What we need is to change the motto. Instead of “you be you,” we need to get to “you be Him,” meaning to be like Christ. At every Divine Liturgy, there is a procession with the Gospel. The Gospel is the living icon of Christ. Not only does it depict Christ on the cover, but the words of Christ contained in it are the words that lead to everlasting life and the words that guide us through this life. The Gospel tells us things like we are to love our enemies, to forgive as we wish to be forgiven, to turn the other cheek and offer it to our enemy if he strikes us, to give away what we don’t need, to use our talents to the glory of God, to be humble, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick, to get up after we fall down in sin, and so many other things. It teaches us how to be like Christ, to die to ourselves and to live for Him. The Gospel is not an icon that we look at but an icon we live, an icon we are continually in the process of becoming.

The people who lived before Christ had a distinct disadvantage when it came to faith–Christ hadn’t come yet, there was no Resurrection to believe in, only prophecies that foretold that it would happen one day.

We Christians today believe in a day that has come—the day of the Resurrection. We now live during a period of time between the Resurrection of Christ and His second coming. However, unlike the people of expectation who lived before Christ, or the first Apostles who saw the miraculous things Christ did and were changed by what they saw, we live at a time when we are encouraged to “you be you,” rather than “you be Him.” This is not leading us to Christ. This is not helping others get to Him. This is not preparing us for our judgment before Him. Actually it is doing the exact opposite.

If we want a faith that will change the world, starting with changing our own lives, we have to get to “you be Him.” “You be you” is slowly destroying the world. To practice “you be Him,” we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow. That doesn’t mean we can’t ever laugh. Jesus laughed. That doesn’t mean we can’t have friends. Jesus had friends. That doesn’t mean we can’t travel. Jesus traveled. What it means is that when there is a conflict between our thoughts and His thoughts, we acquiesce to His thoughts. When being you conflicts with being like Him, we cast our vote to be like Him.

Lack of respect, lack of work ethic, lack of honesty, lack of forgiveness, lack of love, these things are killing our world. If we want to make a contribution towards changing the world, not only from a Christian perspective, but even a practical one, we have to focus on being Him, and not just focusing on ourselves.

When I was growing up, Michael Jordan was a universally recognized name. We watched him pull off amazing feats on the basketball court. He came out with a line of shoes that every boy wanted to own. He endorsed many products and was constantly on television not only playing in the games but on the commercials that ran during the games. I can still remember a song that played during the commercials, it said simply “if I could be like Mike.”   Michael Jordan was idolized. He gave kids someone to look up to, someone to aspire to be, someone to think of when honing basketball skills.

The goal of our lives should be, “If I could be like Christ, if I could be like Christ.” And to be honest, I struggle with this like everyone else. I Corinthians 4:12-13 tells us that as Christians “when reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to reconcile.” You be you says “when reviled, curse; when persecuted, fight back and destroy; when slandered, get even, or worse.” I struggle with this on a daily basis. Some days, I’m able to be Him and rise above, and some days, sadly, I’m me, and I sink in sin.

If the goal of our life is “you be you,” or “if I could just be me,” then the icon on our wall would be ourselves. We’d be making an idol of ourselves. Even if the icon on the wall is of Michael Jordan, the “if I could be like Mike” icon makes an idol out of him. This is why the icons on the walls of our churches are of Christ and the saints, lives worthy of emulation. To emulate Christ, or to emulate the saints who have found salvation in Christ does not put our hope in ourselves, and does not make an idol out of anyone. You be Him is a worthy goal for us. Just like Christ and the saints are worthy icons to have on our walls.

Love, peace, patience, sacrifice, loyalty, respect, value, purpose—these are the pillars of the journey to salvation. These are the pillars of the Christian faith. These are the pillars that lead to salvation.

At a recent funeral, I had this thought. One day we will all be equally dead. Death is the great equalizer. “You be you” makes death something to be feared, because it marks the end of any sense of love, peace, patience, sacrifice, loyalty, respect, value, purpose and joy that we’ve ever had. “You be Him” makes death something to actually look forward to, because for the one whose life’s goal is to be transformed into an icon of Christ, these things continue for eternity, without the sins that taint them.

We hear a lot of rancor about climate change. And while this pertains to the physical environment around us, it does not address the emotional and spiritual pollution that are getting more and more potent. We need some climate change for sure, but it’s more than controlling car emissions. We need to change the climate from you be you, to you be Him.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
O Trinity uncreated and without beginning, O undivided Unity: accept me in repentance and save me, a sinner. I am Your creation, reject me not; but spare me and deliver me from the fire of condemnation.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode One, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

When you struggle in your spiritual life, or in your life in general, a great place to start is focusing on “You be Him!”


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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