Friday, March 4, 2016

Doctrine Matters

Today’s Epistle Reading: St. John's Second Universal Letter 1:1-13 - The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:  Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father.  And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.  And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love.  For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.  Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward.  Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son.  If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work. Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.  Amen.
During a discussion yesterday about the sacredness the human body as it relates to the understanding of the Incarnation of Christ and the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. In short I was explaining why Orthodox Christians are called to treat the human body, even after death, with dignity and respect because the Body is in Communion with God. This discussion took place in our Orthodoxy 101 Class which is why I am sharing it here. After explaining why we don’t cremate and why we frown upon our bodies being divided up and sold off the pavement during a car accident (but we consider it a blessing to donate organs in a planned and holy way), a comment was made, “Ok, it’s nice that you treat the body with respect but that doesn’t have anything to do with salvation.”

But it does as I explained last night. In Orthodoxy words matter. Theology matters. IF we truly believe that God came and dwelt among us; IF we truly believe He entered the waters of the Jordan and sanctified all life; IF we believe we truly receive the BODY AND BLOOD of Our lord in the Holy Communion; IF we truly believe our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit as the Scriptures confirm; THEN as a matter of salvation that belief MUST have an impact on how we treat the human body. If we discard the human body without regard after physical death, or purposely abuse our bodies while we are alive, I suggest with might not REALLY believe what we claim about Jesus Christ. Words matter. Theology matters.

In today’s Epistle Saint John writes, “Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.” While I appreciate the human desire to wish away consequences, the Church has ALWAYS believed doctrine was important, not because it affects God, but because proper doctrine affects our daily life. According to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, when we join ourselves to Christ through Holy Baptism, and when we receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy, we are in REAL PHYSICAL union with God. That is the doctrine. Do our lives reflect THAT doctrine or another? If it reflects another doctrine, then go back and read the Epistle again. Doctrine matters!

It is absolutely a matter of salvation.

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