Out of Touch

Submitted by FatherAthanasios on Thu, 11/04/2021 - 08:47

Did you ever get the feeling like your priest, and through your priest, the entire Church, is saying the same thing over and over again? Don’t you think maybe the Church would catch on that ‘we’ve heard this before’ and say something new? There is a trend in the modern society to accuse the Church of being out of touch with the society, and not caring about the things we modern people care about. Still, the Church insists on the same message again and again.

People often give reasons young people step away from the Church. Citing a Wall Street Journal article, this comment made its way across my news feed the other day. "Half of young people ages 13 to 25 surveyed said they don’t think that religious institutions care as much as they do about issues that matter deeply to them...Those issues include racial justice, gender equity, immigration rights, income inequality and gun control." I won’t get into the total study, as I will leave that for another post. I merely draw attention today to the presumed conflict between what people think the Church should focus upon, and what the Church indeed does focus upon.

Brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not irksome to me, and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3.1-8

You can almost hear the frustration in St Paul’s words in today’s reading. It seems like the Philippians also may have complained that he was saying the same thing over and over again, but St Paul didn’t find it ‘irksome.’ In fact, he said it was ‘safe’ for them. It seems like there have always been, ALWAYS, those who would distract us from what God wants for us, and we think we want for ourselves.

Remember this instance? “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3.1) Ever since the beginning, Satan has been working to trick us into thinking we know better for ourselves than God. Eve’s mistake was that she engaged Satan in the debate, and he twisted God’s words against her. He said, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3.5) In fact, God does want us to be like Him, but that truth was twisted to make Eve think God was jealous. The same thing happens today.

Of course, the Church cares about justice and race and poverty. The Church has always cared about these issues. So, why accuse the Church of not caring just because the Church talks about things that appear to be different. This last Sunday’s Gospel less was all about income inequality, but not in the way society wants us to think about it. The rich man was in hell BECAUSE of his selfishness, but the poor man was in heaven BECAUSE he suffered in life. The difference between how the world views income inequality and how the Church views inequality is nuanced, but serious. The Church does not teach that wealth is sin, society does. The Church teaches that the wealthy are called by God to use their wealth to be a blessing to others. This is for the sake of the wealthy, not for the sake of the poor. This week’s episode of Be Transfigured was about this.

When you consider what the Church teaches, we must remember it is for our salvation, not the comfort of others. When the Church teaches care for the poor, it is not solely to comfort the poor, though that is a blessing. Even Christ, when he healed the sick said, “Sin no more.” When we receive physical blessings, it is so we can live another day to repent and ‘get it right’ so that we don’t find ourselves on the wrong side of heaven.

Ultimately, Christ’s invitation to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him into heaven, means that we must learn to stop thinking we have all the answers. We must stop thinking we know better what we need, than the Church. The Church has dealt with all these issues in the past, and the world continues to struggle as well. Instead of thinking the Church is out of touch, maybe we should start thinking the world is the one out of touch.

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