"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Note on Morality

W
hile I certainly agree that there is a huge (and self-centered) lack of morality  in our country (and most of the rest of the world), and sometimes even supported by some within our Church, I have to say that historically, going back thousands of years, this is nothing new.  

A large part of the morality gap within the Church is due to the fact that there are those within the Church who have never been introduced to, or expected to live a life as a repentant sinner and follower of Jesus Christ. It is usually enough to be of the proper heritage and pay the mandatory dues. It is especially helpful if you are a really large donor – you know, the ones who have large plaques with their names on them attached to buildings. Our country, on the other hand, does not have a consistent witness to the Truth – a role that the Church ought to fill – and so it goes whichever way it will under the influence of our common spiritual enemy, and largely in absence of the witness of Truth. 

In the earliest years when the Church was severely persecuted there was no question what is meant, and what it may cost, to be a Christian. At the same time, the Church was increasingly persecuted precisely because it WAS a consistent example of Truth, following Christ's Great Commandments even unto death. Dioclesian personally travelled to Egypt to participate in the persecution and martyrdom of Christians because the Christians were unlike any other in their willingness to hold steadfast to the Truth of the Gospel in the face of the horrors visited upon them.

Today a person can preach morality at folks, even to folks within the Church, all day long, and some people will only become more set in their contrary ways – ways contrary to Christ. Thus, it is not the responsibility of the priest or bishop to preach Christian morality. It is a priest's responsibility to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ Who by His Grace has established a new and better Kingdom, not of this world. It is his responsibility to teach that to partake of that kingdom does indeed require us to make a certain sacrifice – ourselves.

 Jesus specifically warned his followers that if "they”, those who are not His followers, hated Me, they will hate you as well. We, in turn, are commanded to love those who hate us even more than we love ourselves. It has been thus for two-thousand years. Yes, and we ought to be model citizens no matter what country we live in, to the extent that we are not required to compromise our singular devotion to God. Model citizens in a democracy vote. Yet nowhere in the Gospel do we hear that we are commanded to transform our society with our politics.  As committed Christians, if such a transformation is to take place, it must be through our living example bearing witness to the Truth. Rhetoric is cheap and unappreciated, while actions are honest and, sometimes, hated for their honesty.

If we love our God like we are called and ought to simply as His special creation, we should strive to live a life wherein even we may participate in the glory of the Transfiguration. Godly morality is the result of knowing God, not of good rhetoric. That, as I understand it, is what a priest's responsibility is – leading first by example in love, in humility, in Christ-likeness and ascesis, in guarding the Holy Chalice, and in standing in for our bishop who cannot serve everywhere in his diocese at the same time. Such actions require the willingness (of bishops first) to have, at first, far fewer "members" in our parishes. The Truth that those members bear witness to will draw thousands whose hearts are waiting to see Truth.

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