Politicians enjoy throwing around the term ‘progressive’ as a banner of respect. I always find myself asking, “What are they progressing towards?” Progress implies a goal. Don’t skip today’s post. It isn’t about politics. It is about progress, but not the sort that politicians praise. Christian progress is moving toward God.
Christian progress won’t get you elected. It won’t get you a large house on the water. It won’t even get you any social respect. It will get you closer to God. It will bring you praise from heaven, and you won’t drop in respect just because ‘they’ don’t need you anymore.
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering – since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.2nd Thessalonians 1.1-10
Saint Paul wasn’t praising the Thessalonians because they had perfected faith. He was praising them because their faith was “growing abundantly,” and their love for each other was increasing. That is what Christian progress is all about. You won’t always get it right, but you will always grow trying. We know this because as you read further into Saint Paul’s letter, you will find corrections and chastisements.
One thing is certain about progress toward anything. You can’t make any progress remaining the same. As we heard in yesterday’s Gospel, “One thing you still lack.” (Luke 18.22) No matter how much progress we make, we can always go further. We may not like hearing our journey never ends, but deep down we know progress requires progress.
So, as we plan for every year during the Great Fast before Pascha, I encourage you to ‘do something more’ this year in your spiritual preparations for Christmas. Fast just a little bit more. Attend at least one more service. Pray a bit more. Avoid just one pre-Christmas party. Schedule a confession with your spiritual father. Even if you have fallen behind since last year, progress is always possible this year.