Acknowledging Christ means standing for what is really true and living with conviction by that stance.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
22 October 2017
In the gospel of Luke (12:8-12) we hear these words:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.
Do I acknowledge Christ or deny him? Do I make the sign of the cross in public and bless my meal? Do I say to someone, “That’s not right,” when he attacks the belief of the Church or do I stand silently by and pretend as if “it’s all good”? When someone endangers her soul, do I show concern or, on the other hand, do I conveniently “look the other way” so as not to create tension or risk wounded feelings?
One way our Lord Jesus Christ is denied is through a careless disregard for what is really true. While there are endless examples of this, some are more common than others. Sometimes it is done casually as if what is true is really no big deal—certainly not worth fretting about. At other times, it’s more blatant. Relativism comes to mind. Exchanging what is good for evil, and deeming that evil as a “good,” as in the cases of abortion, assisted-suicide, same-sex “marriage,” cohabitation, artificial birth control, etc. Another example is a false tolerance that is wedded to political correctness, so pervasive in today’s society. The contemporary dogma stating that “the rule of life is to get along well with others,” which holds as its primary creed, “dare not say what should be said or call into question an immoral lifestyle, for that would hurt someone’s feelings” seems to all too often win the day.
Do I acknowledge Christ? Do I seek to please him or do I seek to please others by living as a reed easily bent by the wind? Who is my sovereign king, God or the concept of “likability.” Am I willing to take risks for love of God and love of what is true? These are questions I ask myself daily. Why? Because they matter.
A number of years ago I worked for a company that was involved in some shady, unethical business practices. Without going into specific detail, management was intentionally deceiving its customers by giving the false impression that refunds were paid for previous services. Management used this marketing scheme: “If you buy this new product, we’ll refund what you spent repairing the old one.” From the customer’s perspective, it was a win-win situation. The sales agent offered this advice: “We can do the repair for X amount of dollars. But you really need a replacement and an upgrade. If you order the work soon, we’ll refund the cost of today’s repairs.” On the surface, there’s nothing unethical about that policy. The problem, however, arose when this company secretly raised the price of a new product accordingly to offset the proposed “refund.” And they did this arbitrarily, on a case-by-case basis. One customer would pay one price for the product, another customer would pay a far higher price for the same product and receive an apparent but not actual refund for previous services.
Although I had not been long employed there, I had worked my way up through the ranks. But all of that came to a halt when I pointed out to management that the deception they employed to make a sale was immoral. Within a few days, I found myself unemployed. Even so, my conscience was clean. I had stood on Christ’s side, on the side of truth. That was what really mattered. Looking back, I’m thankful God granted me the grace to courageously speak what is true. If I had not, I would have been an accomplice in their deception—not a good place to be.
I’ve experienced other instances like that. What I’m referring to is those times—which should be at ALL TIMES—when our love for Christ governs our attitudes, expressions, character and behavior. The fact is, when our love for the truth is sincere, when our conviction for the divine faith is transparent and penetrates deeply into our core, there will be consequences. Why?
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Jn 15:18-20)
When Christ is truly the divine Master of your heart, when what is really true ranks first among your priorities, you will often be perceived as more than merely different—people may exaggerate the situation, paint you as something you’re not, and deem you to be a rigid, moralistic bigot. At the least, you won’t always fit in because you’re justly concerned about the difference between right and wrong. Your unwillingness to “go along to get along” and pretend as if what is evil is good, will result in being misunderstood, mischaracterized, perhaps ostracized.
The world will hate you.
If it does, rejoice and be glad: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12).
Of course, nobody likes the company of someone who’s constantly moralizing. I’m not talking about acting that way. I’m not talking about burning bridges or exuding a self-righteous, judgmental air of superiority or unceasingly engaging in sermonizing. I’m talking about sincerity, honesty, respect and love for what is true, and trying to live in a fully human and faithful way. I’m talking about allowing one’s life to be not only governed by but infused with the virtues of faith, hope and charity. I’m talking about letting these sublime, divine gifts penetrate deeply into your soul and then allowing them to shine outward from your interior as a lamp for all to see. I’m talking about really caring about the well-being of others, which is first of all and primarily a concern for the spiritual purity and integrity of their soul before God.
“For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36).
St. Ignatius of Loyola noted that the supreme goal of the human person is to love, serve and glorify God and thereby attain his destiny in heaven. We are all called to engage in this lofty and holy enterprise, one upon which everything hinges, drawing others into that same journey by which they attain their predestined end in God. This is done by bringing ourselves, our families, neighborhoods and communities under the rule of Christ. In doing so, we make the world more perfect, we elevate and ennoble society, build up the common good and introduce others to the fullness of human living found in Christ our Lord and Savior.
I pray each day for the grace to move forward on that journey. Even if I’m mischaracterized, misunderstood, or deemed a bigot. The one thing that matters above all is love for God and authentic love of neighbor for the sake of love of God—giving quiet, tacit approval of wrongdoing is not love but hate. If I’m unwilling to endure suffering for the sake of my love of Christ, then I have not love.
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Photo Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Jesusicon.jpg. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.