Written by Dr. Karim Hanna
11 November, 2022
Dr. Hanna is a loving husband and father, a servant of the Holy Trinity
“Emmanuel our God, is now in our midst, with the glory of His Father, and the Holy Spirit…”
We hear this so often in church, and we’re reminded of His presence. Fact is – I have days where I wish His presence was more obvious. I have days where I wish His presence was more palpable.
Does this mean Emmanuel is not present? No.
But – that is the easy answer. Isn’t it? The quick, go-to, ‘church-goer’, response. That He is there, but you can’t see Him. As if my spiritual life is a pre-requisite to having a spiritual life, or to experience knowing Him.
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” (Jude 1:11)
Tough words from an epistle. I wonder about these three examples. If I knew nothing about them, the tone of the verse sends an obvious message – not good. These are people just like you and me, but possibly missing some part of their relationship with God. Jude doesn’t write very much but mentions that they went towards the ‘natural’ and corrupted themselves.
Without a doubt, they all ‘believed in God’, or at least His existence, and in some respect, each witnessed His work firsthand. What was it then that caused Cain to kill his brother? For Balaam to scandalize and curse the people of God for his own gains? For Korah to rebel against Moses? What in my way of life can cause me to make said decisions?
Cain was first. His problem was offering things that were not fit for God. There are days where I’m not sure if I’m offering to God a pure sacrifice. Not a goat or a calf or a vegetable – but what’s the condition of my mind, heart, and soul? I wonder what it is I’m prepping to give Him? I need to offer to Him from the depths of me. I need to give all I can.
A rich man is not one who has much, but one who gives much. For what he gives away remains his forever. – St John Chrysostom
Balaam was from Numbers 22. He took payment to curse God’s people. Even if he heard God’s voice, Balaam was insistent to put forward his personal gain. He heard it loud and clear, from several sources – including a talking donkey! Imagine the classic movie Shrek, with a talking donkey, but in real life! He did not relent, even with supernatural signs. Guys and gals – I need to quit living for the self! Putting others first would have saved Balaam. It would have imitated Christ, and you and I can do the same. We can also choose to deny, despite the supernatural.
Korah was mentioned in his refusal of following Moses. He avoided the ways set by the leadership. Moses was a follower of God, so I should follow Moses, and be like him. Just like Paul reminds us – to imitate him, as he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). I need to humble myself in front of authority. This is imperative for growth.
One thing is needed my friends. To remember that “Emmanuel” is our state of being. That God is perpetually with us, but it’s on us to recognize this. I was speaking with some of my students recently and asked how things have been. We reflected that there are always flowers blooming. The sun is always rising. Children are always being born and laughing. Life is always beautiful. The question and challenge remain: do I recognize this? Where is my focus? Because the decision to focus on a glass half full is an option. It doesn’t naïvely deny the half that’s empty.
As we approach the holiday season – Thanksgiving is followed by the “Black” Friday, where everyone shows the least bit of satisfaction for what they have, and materialism is king. Is God with us? Do we live in the “Emmanuel” state of mind?? As the Advent comes, and we await His wonderful birth – Christmas – do we focus on the gifts we receive? or on His presence?
Christ is our aim. So let’s learn from Jude – to offer myself, quit living for the life of the world, and humble myself. They’re one and the same. I know I have had some very tough days recently, and you may relate as well. But let’s remain hopeful, Christ is in our midst.
PS – if you don’t know about the talking donkey, go read Numbers 22.