If you have ever had a discussion about religion with your friends, you know it can be very complicated to explain the difference between the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. It is such a difficult topic, we have been arguing with the Oriental Orthodox for more than 1500 years. You may be tempted to say, “What does it matter if I believe in Jesus Christ?” It does matter, because the answer affects who God is.
Turn to most Christian blogs or cable channels and you will hear faithful people ranting about persecution of Christians. Throughout the world, Christians face political oppression physical violence from those who would work to silence the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It isn’t new by any means, but it should also not be surprising. In today’s letter from Saint Paul to Timothy we are forever warned of persecution.
Some consider the Church Calendar to be nothing more than dates and times of services. Others think it too complex to be of any value. It is complex. It is dates and times of services, but it is also a daily reminder of the myriad saints we commemorate, many of whom gave their lives for Christ and His Church. It is also a great teaching tool to help us understand the greater picture. Today is one of those days.
The theme this week has been centered around how other people view our Christian life, and whether our life attracts others to the Church, or drives them away. At first glance, this appears to be a burden we don’t deserve. Why should our actions determine whether someone joins the Church? Isn’t that the same thing as judging us? Is it fair that our actions are used ‘against us’ by others who are judging the Church as hypocrites? That is the point this week. It isn’t about what it fair, but about being a witness.
As I wrote yesterday, the Light in your life can attract many to become followers of Christ but it can also chase them away. As Christ said, “A city on a hill cannot be hid,” (Matthew 5.14) it was both a compliment and a warning. When we live as faithful Orthodox Christians, we attract others to Christ. When we do not act as we should, we drive them away. When the Light of Christ shines, it reveals good and bad.
Living as an Orthodox Christian in the modern world is much more than ‘just’ attending Sunday Divine Liturgy and keeping the fast. Deep down we know this to be true, so why bring it up? Well, maybe we have forgotten that it was the Pharisees that were able to keep all the rules, but outside the Temple they were cruel and judgmental of others. Have we become Pharisee Orthodox?
People find hope in all sorts of places and things. As I get older, it occurs to me that much has been said about hope, yet many find it difficult to find hope. People hope in their knowledge of what ‘works’ in life, only to find out one day ‘it’ doesn’t work. They hope in their efforts and commitment, only to find out one day that ‘it’ wasn’t enough. After many failed attempts, some even hope they will find peace in drugs and alcohol, only to find that never works even in the short term. The search for hope continues.
Sometimes we turn to God and demand He answer our every prayer with, “Yes. Right Away!” When God doesn’t do what we want, instead of thinking maybe we shouldn’t be making such a request, we chastise God for not caring. Then, when God does indeed give to us what we ask, rather than having actual gratitude, we walk away justified because God came through like He is supposed to. Either way, all too often we take God’s grace for granted.
When we see the Cross of Christ, we are reminded that God has been saving us ever since Adam and Eve ate from the Tree in the Garden. From the very moment when God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden, and every day since then, God has never stopped saving us. Even today despite our daily sins, God saves us so we can have another chance to live with Him in repentance. It gives us great hope.
It is so easy to forget sometimes that we are not the source of everything. It is difficult to remember that, while we use our minds and our strength to accomplish many good things, it is not because of anything good we have done. As we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “Every perfect is from above, coming down from You the giver of life.”