THE OLD LIFE OF MISERY vs THE NEW LIFE OF JOY
"You have not resisted unto blood in striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4).
"That we too might walk in the newness of life" (Rom. 6:4)
St. Paul rebukes some early Christians with these words: "You have not resisted unto blood in striving against sin." His rebuke is not only for them but for all of us until this day. When we were baptized into Christ, St. Paul said in the baptism epistle: "We were buried therefore, with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ is raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life . . ." The newness of life is the whole purpose of the Church’s existence, the reformation of each of us to become an image of Christ, fearing and loving Him and doing His work in this fallen world.
What is the oldness of life? The oldness life, is the life of the pagan and unbeliever; the wretched life of sin and passions. It is living only for the
pleasures of the flesh. Those who live this life do not believe in or inherit eternal life, nor do they look ahead to the terrible judgment of Christ, who will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, but they remain in the mire of self-indulgence, and their end will be the second death. The old life is the pursuit of pleasure, of money and fame, and while seeking praise and adulation, living only for this world.
These pursuits cause sins and passions to arise like flames in their souls. Among them are pride, unreasonable anger, misbehavior, gluttony, drunkenness, lying, stealing, fornication, adultery, disobedience, and egotism. Whoever lives the old life cannot possibly be friendly with God, and often end up in despair lacking desire or hope of eternal life, and sadly they cannot understand that the wages of sin is death.
But what is the newness of life? The answer is found in St. Paul’s rebuke: "You have not resisted unto blood striving against sin. Every Orthodox Christian must resist and strive against sin, becoming actively engaged in the struggle, which renders us worthy of partaking the divine Mystery when called: "With fear of God, faith and love". Our walking in the newness of life is a continuous lifelong struggle, for without struggle no task can be accomplished. The resistance and striving against sin can only be accomplished when we engage in the struggle daily.
This is why all Orthodox Christians, not only monastics but bishops, priests, deacons, and laymen, must continuously live the ascetic life in Christ. This does not mean that we leave the world and go into the desert. We can live in this world without partaking of its evils. We can eat and drink and enjoy; we can live moderately always giving thanks for everything to the Lord. We can become careful of who we choose for friends and companions. We can set aside time to read the Scriptures listening to the words of God. We can also establish a rule of daily prayer, which will arise to God as incense when we send it to Him with faith and love. The ascetic life is not a choice but is the genuine life of Orthodox Christians.
It is not easy to strive against sin even unto blood, however the strength we need comes from two sources. First is our firm desire and decision to follow Christ in faith, walking in the life of peace, kindness, moderations and holiness. Although this is a struggle, it is also a complete delight, filled with joy and hope, for in this struggle we can see clearly ahead and experience the glorious Kingdom that awaits us. The new life is the only continuously happy life, for the ascetic struggle gives us a portion and taste of the Kingdom to come. Our calling is to do all we can to avoid sin and vice, and acquire holiness and virtue. Our ultimate goal is to attain the fulness of Christ; to be holy as Christ is holy, to strive to become perfect as our Father in heaven!