MY SON TIMOTHY, the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, Who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the presbyters. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
I would like to make a connection to the Gospel lesson that we will hear on Sunday with the above Epistle reading. The Gospel lesson talks about Zacchaeus, who was a tax-collector and in serious search of the right way of life and of God. What Saint Paul tells his spiritual son Timothy reveals what kind of God we believe in.
In general, it's a good practice to know at least something about a God you worship. And to be certain, there are many gods. Most of them, I would say even, all of them except One are, if not made up, then basically demons who crave desperately our worship.
So what does Saint Paul tell us about the One True God in the above Epistle excerpt? "We have our hope set on the living God, Who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." Saint Paul says a lot here, so let's unpack it a bit.
First, our God is the living God. As in, He ain't dead, or made up, or carved out, or stone, or a painting, or an irrational animal, or a figment of our imagination. He is a living God. He is the only Who truly exists. All else compared to Him does not exist, or at the very least is temporary. As the living God, He was able to reveal Himself to us by becoming incarnate, by taking on the same fleshly body as each of us has. That's how Zacchaeus was able to see Jesus, to see God, because God became visible through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Second, this living God is the Savior of all people. All people. Since there is only One True God, He is the only Creator of all life, of everything. Since He is the only Creator, He is the only Savior. There can be no other, there is no other Savior. But what about those who might not believe in Him or those who don't want to be saved by Him, you might ask? I don't mean to sound crude, but tough luck. He is the God of all, He is the Savior of all, whether we like it or not. The consequence of our liking or not liking this fact will be taken care of at the end, as the Second Coming. And how that will be taken care of nobody knows, so it is pointless to even dwell on it.
But, the fact remains - the living God is the Savior of all people. Jesus Christ, by dying on the Cross, resurrecting, and ascending, saved all humanity. Salvation belongs to all. How we react to being saved, how we cooperate with God's gift of salvation is completely another topic.
Third, the living God is the Savior of all, especially those who believe. It's not a secret that there are people who do not believe in God, any god. This does not mean that they are any better or worse, than those who do believe. It just means that they are on a different path of seeking the truth. However, if you believe in the living God, Who is our Savior, then live accordingly. Imagine yourself standing at the foot of the Cross upon which Christ is hanging. And imagine Him asking you, "Is this (meaning, your life) what I died for?" If you can comfortably and confidently answer, "Yes, Lord, my life is worthy for You to die and save me," then whatever you are doing, you are doing it right. Just continue. If you have at least some doubt about whether your life is worthy for the living God to die for, then figure out where you are lacking, and slowly but surely, start making steps and taking actions in righting your life. (Just remember, in order to be better, you need to change yourself, not force others to change around you).
This is what repentance is. This is what Zacchaeus went through. He knew there were some very wrong things in his life. He had no idea how to fix them. The Lord nudged him in the right direction.
So, if we are the believers of the living God, the Savior of all, let us rejoice and remember what it entails, always.
For a previous reflection on the same reading, go here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest