Monday, November 25, 2013

Be Zealous for Christ

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 11 (Reflections on Acts 5-15)
Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

I pray the New Testament Challenge has been as edifying for you, as is has been for me. It does take a certain about of commitment to read every day. The added pressure to blog every day, somehow inspired by the readings, has also kept me going this year. As much as I enjoy reading scripture, something always seems to find its way onto my “list” which forces me to choose.

We choose between one priority and another constantly throughout the day, especially the work day, but how much time do we really place on those choices? Ok, some choices might seem mundane. What to eat for breakfast might not be a life-changing choice, but it does have a place in our Orthodox Christian journey. Since arriving in the South, my breakfast of choice has become eggs, grits, toast, and bacon. I never knew the intricacies of preparing grits….but I digress.

Today, I was moved to consider the dedication of the early Church again revealed in Acts. The Apostles were bold preachers. The followers were bold believers. The result was a bold expansion of the Church beyond the Jewish “inner circle” to the Gentiles. But their boldness was not always rewarded by the fellow Jews. They were persecuted, and YET the maintained their faith.

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4.31

I’ve noticed lately one really significant difference between the ancient Christian zeal and modern Christians. The ancient Church stood strong and demanded faithfulness to Christ and His Church, but they made a distinction between IN the Church and OUTSIDE the Church. Unfortunately, the modern “zealot” spends (it seems) more time trying to force those OUTSIDE the Church to comply with the way of life of those IN the Church. The conclusion normally is neither faithfulness within the Church nor outside the Church, too often because of high profile stumbling.

It was the willingness of the ancient Christians to remain faithful IN the Church, expressed in the loving and fair manner they lived their lives OUTSIDE the Church. If Christians spent more time living righteous lives and treating others with dignity, more would find the Church palatable and we might once again see “the number of the disciples multiply greatly” (Acts 6.7)

Until tomorrow….be zealous for the Faith, but keep it to yourself!

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