DO NOT FEAR EVIL RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES
(Friday, November 3)
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing (μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι), has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Lk 12:4-7)
This 12th chapter of Luke begins with our Lord warning His “friends” about their religious authorities: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known…” (Lk 12:1b-3) Immediately after this, He speaks as quoted above, about not fearing those who kill the body, because the religious authorities of that time, just like some religious authorities of our time, were killers and were feared as such. Further in this chapter, Christ encourages His disciples not to worry, when they will be brought to the synagogues and other authorities: “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer…For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Lk 12:11-12)
We might tend to think that religious authorities do have the “canonical” authority to cast us into hell, because they might ex-communicate or defrock people for speaking the truth, like the “canonical” Patriarch of Moscow is doing, while also encouraging people to go kill and be killed in Ukraine. So, many people in my church fear his now-murderous, canonical authority, and fear being separated from “canonical” communion with him. But our Lord reminds us that religious authorities who have abandoned God’s Spirit of truth and love for us do not, in fact, possess the power to separate us from God’s salvation and love. We are only to fear separation from Him, who loves us and values every hair on our heads. So, let us let ourselves be liberated from merely-human fears, by our Lord’s dignifying words in today’s Gospel-reading: “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” He says this, not because He wants us to be killed, but because He wants us to live lives worth living, in the dignifying freedom of the Spirit. Let us do that, because life is, indeed, worth living, in the dignity of God’s Spirit, Whom no human power can take away from us.