Glory to God for All Things

What Matters?

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God matters and what matters to God matters. I know that sounds very redundant, but I’m not sure how else I want to say it. There are many things that do not matter – because they do not matter to God. Knowing the difference between the two – what matters to God and what does not requires that we know God.

And this is theology – to know God. If I have a commitment in theology, it is to insist that we never forget that it is to know God. Many of the arguments (unending) and debates (interminable) are not about what we know, but about what we think.

Thinking is not bad, nor is it wrong, but thinking is not the same thing as theology. It is, of course, possible to think about theology, but this is not to be confused with theology itself.

Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity for God is not an idea, nor a thought. God may be known because He is person. Indeed, He is only made known to us as person (we do not know His essence). We cannot know God objectively – that is He is not the object of our knowledge. He is known as we know a person. This is always a free gift, given to us in love. Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment.

It matters that we know God because knowledge of God is life itself. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

The Orthodox way of life is only about knowing God. Everything we do, whether it is prayer, communion, confession, forgiveness, fasting – all of it is about knowing God. If it is about something else, then it is delusion and a distraction from our life’s only purpose.

Knowing God is not a distraction from knowing other persons, nor is knowing other persons a distraction from knowing God. But, like God, knowing other persons is not the same thing as thinking about them, much less is it objectifying them.

Knowing others is so far from being a distraction from knowing God, that it is actually essential to knowing God. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, and hate our brother whom we do see, St. John tells us. We only know God to the extent that we love our enemies (1 John 4:7-8).

And this matters.

This blog does not matter – except that I may share something that makes it possible for someone to know God or someone may share something that allows themselves to be known. This matters.

7 Responses to “What Matters?”

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  1. “Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity for God is not an idea, nor a thought. God may be known because He is person. Indeed, He is only made known to us as person (we do not know His essence). We cannot know God objectively – that is He is not the object of our knowledge. He is known as we know a person. This is always a free gift, given to us in love. Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment.”

    The personalism of Eastern theology is what attracted me to the Ruthenian Church.

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    God bless,
    Todd

  2. Alyssa says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    In the retraining of my mind, this post is very helpful. It is not the first time I have heard it, but I am dense and need to be reminded often.

    I have one question, though. Is there something about which God does not care? Is there something that does not matter?

    Thanks,
    Alyssa

  3. fatherstephen says:

    Of course, in a sense, everything matters to God, but not the way we would typically use that phrase. Delusion does not matter except inasmuch as it destroys us. But what matters here to God is us, and not the delusion. In the catechumenal process, an appropriate question to ask is, “Why does God want me to be Orthodox?” My answer to that was clear, “God wants me to be Orthodox for the salvation of my soul.” Not in any legal or forensic sense, viz. only the Orthodox get their tickets punched. That’s silly. But because by faithfully following the Orthodox Way of life, which is the way “once and for all delivered to the saints,” I will find that by His grace, God is changing me from glory to glory into the image of His dear son.”

  4. Alyssa says:

    Thank you for expanding on this.

  5. Melanie says:

    I have enjoyed so very much reading your posts, and they give me much think about. This one really has been really nice, as I am much more in the habit of thinking about God and just beginning to understand what it means to know him.

    Thank You,
    Melanie

  6. Aunt Melanie says:

    “Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity…” As somebody who likes to think but who is not an intellectual or an academic, I found this message to be a relief. I often wish I had more years ahead of me so that I could read all the wonderful written works of Christendom–the doctrines, the lives of the saints, the history–and understand it all. And, sometimes I feel quite inferior and out of place because I do not have this background and training. I wish I could consume all the libraries of the world like Communion bread–which is probably an oxymoron.

    “…we know God because knowledge of God is life itself…” of which intellectual knowledge can only be a part–and there are other parts such as icons and loving one’s neighbor and praying. And, I suppose each individual balances these qualities within the capacities of their own life.

    “This blog does not matter…” Indeed, “this matters” and is fulfilling its purpose even in this very moment.

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