Questions of the Spirit
Jackie Morfesis and John G. Panagiotou
The processing of who we are and how we are ‘saved’
by John G. Panagiotou
The great character actor of our time Al Pacino once asked former New York Police Detective Frank Serpico whom he portrayed in a feature film titled “Serpico” why he didn’t take the bribe money like the other corrupt cops on the police force. Serpico’s response was “If I did, then who would I be when I listen to Beethoven?”
That is a very simple but profound answer. I believe this is something that each of us daily must ask ourselves, especially if we self-identify with the moniker of Christian. We may not necessarily use the analogy of Beethoven, but we can respond with by our disposition, mindset, patterns of behavior and daily actions to the question “Who are we when we sing church hymns?”
The apostle Paul tells us that salvation is a process when he speaks of dying daily to self to live for Christ and that we have been saved, are being saved and will continue to be saved. In the modern parlance of verbiage, I believe it is unfortunate and unnecessary that we often hear the question “Are you saved?” In the early church, as found in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, no one ever speaks in those terms, let alone asks anyone that question in that way.
If we are to truly be people of the the Way, as the early Christians referred to themselves, then we need to get into that mindset and live that way of spiritual life. Too often the focus of people is on their relationship to God, instead of God Himself. Without an understanding that the Christian life is not about you, it is all about God, a person will drift aimlessly in the sea of religiosity without the anchor of Jesus Christ.
As we enter a new calendar year of 2022, one thing is for certain: We are all closer to the culmination of our lives, either through our own death or the Second Coming of Christ. Either way, we are nearer to facing Jesus. For the one who struggles to be a true Christian, this is an expectation of joy. To those who have not found the Way, this is fraught with fear of the unknown.
If we trust in Christ, we need not fear or flounder. Regardless of our circumstances, we can rejoice and have hope while we sing church hymns or listen to Beethoven. Jesus and the life we have in Him are what make all the difference. With that we enter a New Year without fear or burden because He is with us.
John G. Panagiotou is a theologian, scholar and professor. Dr. Panagiotou is the author of the best-selling book The Path to Oikonomia with Jesus Christ as Our Lighthouse [OCP Publications: 2020].
Be true to thine own spirit
By Jackie Morfesis
Years ago, I was introduced to a diagnostic test that assessed spiritual gifts. I was not surprised that my foremost gift was mercy, since it is the lens though which I respond and move in the world as a Christian. This was one among many other diagnostic tests that I have found have an uncanny accuracy.
Another such test is the Myers Briggs Personality Test or Type Indicator. It reveals where we are on the spectrum of extrovert and introvert, sensing and intuition, feeling and thinking and judging and perceiving. I am an INFP: Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving. The identity type for this is Healer. Again, I was not surprised, and I resonate with the words of those who are also identified in the same way. Recently, I saw a rebroadcast of an interview with the actor Marlon Brando, whose work I always admired and who is identified as an INFP. He said: “I am myself. And if I have to hit my head against a brick wall to remain true to myself, I will do it.”
“Be true to thine own spirit” has always resonated to me. It is more well known as “To thine own self be true,” attributed to Socrates. However, the closer Greek translation is “Be true to thine own spirit.” It is engraved on a temple in Greece.
As Christians, we are called to be true to our spirit — the Holy Spirit within — and to God’s laws and mandates over our lives.
Yet the blaring light of truth is something that is often too difficult, too inconvenient and too uncomfortable to follow in a world that celebrates masking our true spiritual self. Every day we are given a million opportunities to compromise our faith, our values, our integrity, our morals and our ideals, not only in grand ways but also in small and insidious ways that create a portal in our armor for the darkness to enter and undermine our purpose in God’s kingdom. “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
There is always a risk in not only standing in our own faith but standing for others in a way that affirms God’s love for them. Being true to one’s own spirit is something that even the ancients knew as truth. Thousands of years later, we still struggle with being completely and transparently truthful to ourselves and others.
But the Truth came to us, given to us as the greatest gift from His Father for our eternal salvation, and His name is Jesus. This is the truth we cannot deny and the only truth that will set us free. So, in a world of fantasy, make-believe and acting, not only on the big screen but in our personal lives, let’s be voices for the truth of God’s Holy Word, and the truth to be lived as a Child of God, our greatest and most profound identity.
Jackie Morfesis is a creative, advocate and author. She holds a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and is a former Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to Greece. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian with an ecumenical spirit.