Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

For They Are Wholly Given To Me

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Keraza Magazine issue 43-44 November 7, 2014

In a wonderful passage in the book of Numbers, God speaks of the Levites: "For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt Isanctified them to Myself" (Numbers 8:16-17), then He returns to say: "And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel" (Numbers 8:19). This means that God consecrated for Himself the Levites on the day He struck the firstborn of Egypt, so that they (from among the children of Israel) became His, and then He turned around and gave them to Aaron and his sons to serve the children of Israel.

In a similar manner, the Lord Christ addressed the Father concerning the disciples: "They were Yours, You gave them to Me" (John 17:6). The resemblance here is exquisite: as the Levites were God's and He gave them to Aaron the priest for the service, likewise the disciples were the Father's and He gave them to the Son, Who is the Great High-Priest, for the service.

Therefore, this is a title deed for all who consecrate their lives to God. It is a twofold title deed; the consecrated belongs to God and the people. As for the ego, the devil, and the world, they have no entitlement. If that twofold title deed is engraved with a diamond tipped iron pen on the tablet of the heart, then it satiates the essence, forms the identity, and colors the personality of the consecrated person. This results in all actions being ruled by its laws, which are two-pronged: first, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37), and second, "And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39).

Behold how St. Paul grasped this truth, saying, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5). As a servant of God, he was freed from the imprisonment of his ego and became a bondservant to God and people simultaneously, however, his service to people did not mean doing everything to win their approval. Rather, it meant exerting all to serve them, sacrificing all personal energy, time, funding, and comfort, and being lenient-not stuck on his own opinion.

Understanding consecration, then, is a balanced perception of the two sides of one truth: God, and the other. The security guard and keeper of this balance is the Holy Spirit.

If the servant becomes preoccupied from God while serving others, the Holy Spirit reminds one of being primarily the property of God and granted by Him to the people, and that to Him ought one worship and Him only shall one serve. Or if one withdraws from others, with the excuse of delighting in worshipping God and ruminated on Him, the Holy Spirit's internal rebuke rises inside saying: "If someone says, ‘I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:20-1). Therefore, Mary and Martha are one in the One.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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