Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Not-so-New Temptation

Many American Christians can be heard waxing and waning over the persecution of the Church in America. Arguments around the water cooler about gay marriage and religious freedom are but the most recent example of how politics becomes spiritual in our nation. But I want to talk about a different type of persecution, what I see as a not-so-new temptation of secular praise.

Many Christians in America expend a great deal of thought and effort into their decision process, especially when it comes to their children. What preschool will best put them on the right path to success? What school will give them the best education? What education will best prepare them for college? What college will be prepared them for a stellar career? What career will earn them the greatest income? What image will the family have in the world in which their children are raised? Will their children be considered prudish or small minded? Will their children have out-dated ideals about family and the social welfare? And these are just the obvious questions. Then there are agonizing questions about the “extra-curriculars” that are presumed a requirement to earn prestige and the all-coveted scholarship to college. All this in the name of, “I want my children to be well-rounded.”

When was the last time you heard a parent include their child’s spiritual health in their life-plan? Why don’t we ask questions about faith? How will this particular extra-curricular prepare my son for heaven? Will that school encourage my daughter to turn against her Church? Will this Sunday soccer league teach my son that it is ok to be absent from Divine Liturgy for three months? Will attending boy scouts or girl scouts, two organizations which promote moral choices against the teachings of the Church, create too much temptation for my children? Will my children grow up thinking their Church is out of touch with the modern world? Have I taught my children that attending Divine Liturgy is more important than sleeping in on the “only day” available?

I could go on and on about the questions we SHOULD be asking, but I think you get the idea. Christians of the 21st century are faced with a choice that is neither new nor is it unique to any time of Christian history. Parents (and just parents) are faced with preparing for the world or preparing for heaven. WE CANNOT prepare for both as Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6.24) When the first followers of Jesus were faced with this same reality, many refused to confess their belief in Him, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12.43)

Extra-curricular activities are not necessarily sinful or dangerous in themselves. What IS dangerous is the reason we insist upon placing them above the life of the Church, “so that our children are well-rounded.” EVERY time our children are faced with a moral choice that conflicts with the Church, they are tempted to choose against the Church. It is high time that we begin to live the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Led us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil.”

v  BEGIN with faith by asking questions about faith rather than the world, and commit to always placing the life of the Church “first on the list” of importance ahead of “being well-rounded” according to worldly standards.
v  CONTINUE with avoiding temptation at every step.
v  FINISH by making a choice that being prepared for heaven is infinitely more important that any college scholarship.

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