Ye are suffering, he says. For such is chastisement; such is its beginning. For “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous.” Well said he, “seemeth not.” Chastisement he means is not grievous but “seemeth” so. “All chastisement”: not this and that, but “all,” both human and spiritual. Seest thou that he argues from our common notions? “Seemeth” (he says) “to be grievous,” so that it is not [really so]. For what sort of grief brings forth joy? So neither does pleasure bring forth despondency. “Nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them which have been exercised thereby.” Not “fruit” but “fruits,” a great abundance. – John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. T. Keble and Frederic Gardiner, vol. 14, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 503.
No one likes to be wrong. Unfortunately, to be human is to experience a mixed bag of being wrong and being right. Being wrong is a part of living a partially informed existence. Being wrong is a part of only seeing part of “the picture.” And the experience of being wrong is a component of Spiritual growth.
If that last paragraph was hard for you to read then it’s possible you’ve been wrong about being wrong.
The Scriptures are clear: mankind is wrong spiritually, socially and biologically. We’re broken! We don’t have the answers to most of life’s problems and questions. We frequently substitute right choices for wrong. And we would prefer to make up answers instead of taking the good advice we are given. Furthermore, we tend to take our made up wrong answers and impose them on others as “right” not having done enough research to verify the rightness of those answers.
Ok. You get it. I get it.
St. John Chrystostom is making the same point that Hebrews is making: there’s a way to be wrong and to be joyful. This is the simultaneous experience of Christians of being saint and sinner. We are both forgiven and fallen at the same time. We are both right-before-God and wrong-before-God. We are subject to the Law; which reminds us of our wrongness and free from judgement because of the Gospel. This back and forth creates a despair and joy response in us.
To dwell only on the wrongness produces anger; because we get tired of being told we’re wrong (regardless of its truth) pretty quick. For others recognition of wrongness produces despair and we give up acts of kindness having come to believe they are of no good since they come from a “no-good-person.” Both responses are also…wrong! Still others do the opposite: they choose to believe that they have done everything they were asked and have all of the right answers. These are the “self-righteous” and they are unable to recognize their wrongness before God’s Law.
Instead of despairing about our wrongness, or downplaying the extent of our wrongness, we should feel the back and forth of the Law (wrongness) and the Gospel (rightness). What comes from this back and forth, this tension are what Chrystostom calls, “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” Like the placid and beautiful ocean after a sever storm, so to are our hearts after the crushing of the Law (wrongness) and the resurrection of the Gospel (rightness) has taken place within us.
May God grant us peace, patience and humility when coming to terms with our wrongness and joy, kinship and elation as we experience rightness before Him.