Monday, June 29, 2015

I Was Made This Way: the Image of Christ for All Humanity

 At every Divine Liturgy Orthodox Christians sing, “We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, we worship the indivisible Trinity: for He has saved us.” In the season of Great Lent during the Presactified Liturgy the priest turns at one point with a lit candle raised aloft and proclaims, “The Light of Christ illumines all!” It has always been the Christian confession that the Revelation of Jesus Christ gives guidance and illumination to every aspect of human life. Indeed a person truly lives in a human manner by abiding in Christ God, the Theanthropos. We confess that since we, humanity, are God's creation He alone knows, and has fully revealed, what is truly good for us and what is truly destructive. Christianity is not a vague notion of feel good ideas and “love” but an all- encompassing way of life and love, which is God Himself (cf. 1 John 4:8). According to the revelation of God the standard for human living is Christ, and every person, if they follow God, is called to Christofication. A Christian is one who is losing his life, that which this corrupt world counts as valuable, to gain Christ, that One Thing Needful, the Everlasting One (Cf. Matt. 16:24ff).

It is clear from the Scripture and the life of the Church that the Christian way also encompasses and guides our sexual life. Christianity has always proclaimed that the only God-given means of sexual expression is within a marriage between one man and one woman. Even then the married couple is called by the Church to a life of chastity, that is marriage is not a license for whatever kind of “sex” I desire, nor is it but some contractual legal sex. Sexual immorality is thoroughly condemned in the Scriptures. The Gospel exposes sin so that we may be healed of it; the point is spiritual health and wholeness. In a similar manner, a doctor reveals malady not to condemn his patient, but to help him in therapy and thus a road to recovery. (And if a patient left a doctor's office and complained that the doctor was judgmental and condemning because he diagnosed his illness, would this not be thought of as ridiculous? The diagnosis is not a condemnation of the person, but the illness; moreover, the diagnosis has as its goal the well-being of the person. We may speak of the “evil” of cancer without condemning a cancer patient. Again, not to speak of the potential threat would be the most uncaring thing to do, the illness is addressed to save the person. In a similar manner, sin is addressed to save humanity from its destructive energy.) God has revealed human wholeness in Christ, and He exposes our fleshly fallen weakness not to condemn but to heal. Of course, if a patient refuses treatment then the sickness becomes of his own doing, in a like manner if humanity refuses the spiritual healing in Christ then the ensuing death, spiritual death, is its own doing. God is abundantly clear: to reject Life leaves one only with death. Adultery, fornication, masturbation, pornography, sodomy, and so forth (cf. 1 Tim. 1:8ff, 1 Cor. 6:9-10) have always been counted as contrary to Godly living. In fact, one may not actively and unrepentantly be living and indulging in sin and be a Christian, for a Christian is one who is conforming his life to Christ through repentance and grace. The simple fact is, according to the revelation of Jesus Christ mankind is created to live a certain way, and outside of that manner of life, there is only death.

Thus, for Christians to remain silent about the grave consequences of sexual sin (and sin in general) is one of the most hateful things they could do. If one knew a road led to certain death and one was silent, would not that person be complicit in the death of those who traveled on it? If a doctor knew a patient had cancer and was silent, actively not informing him of treatment plans, rather telling him that cancer is normal and a blessing, a sign that he is healthy, would not that doctor be of the worst sort? And if a day of “celebrate cancer” were proclaimed would a good doctor, who knows the grave effects of the disease, rejoice in such a day? Or would he not try to inform and warn as many as he could regarding the insanity of such a measure? Those who claim to be Christians and are passively silent and even go so far as to approve of modern sexual immorality are like unto the situations of heedlessness mentioned above. Indeed they have lost evangelic charity and have become complicit in the destruction of their fellow man. To approve of sexual immorality reveals a grave, troubling, and false understanding of morality and anthropology.

In our times the issue of sodomy, which is currently in the limelight, is simply the end result of a society that has lived for its own pleasure, and has for many years now approved of a long list of sexual perversions, starting with the heterosexual sort. It is evident from Divine revelation that we receive that which we desire, if we, in truth, desire God we will receive Him, and if we do not then we will receive the opposite. In Romans chapter one, it is clear that sodomy and sexual debauchery, in general, are the result of mankind's homo-eros, self- infatuated love. God having revealed Himself to mankind, which He created, is rejected by it; rather mankind turns in on itself and begins to see in itself the end of all things, which is self-deification. At some point in history, this homo-eros was manifested in classic idolatry; today idolatry continues in a more sophisticated manner. Nonetheless, the essence is the same. Modern man in his “free thinking” worships his every thought and emotion as a god, and he follows the whims and dictates of his mutable corrupt heart like a slave does his master. Some, even in Orthodoxy, continue to claim Christ, for it is always easier to worship self under another name, while explicitly denying the most basic Christian teachings. We may as well hang mirrors in our icon corners and pray in front of them, and if it makes one feel better one could draw a little beard and halo on the mirror. We refuse Him and yet claim to be His. We skeptically question revelation and the teaching of the saints, because, the excuse goes, they did not live in the age of progress (!?), and blindly follow “modern research.” Do we, as Christians, take seriously Christ's words in the Revelation of St. John concerning entrance into Life, “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes abomination, or a lie” (cf. Rev. 21:27)? Or have we also forgotten that “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24) and “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)? "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways" (The Didache).

We as Christians are called to reason in the Light of Christ and to let that Light alone guide our path. Humanity's “reason” will be guided by something, everyone submits his mind to some ideology, philosophy, or such thing; a Christian chooses Christ and conforms his mind to the mind of Christ. We are called to repentance, as is the whole world. If we as Christians cease to issue a call for repentance, either by giving approbation or passive silence to explicit sinful death at work in our neighbor, then we are simply salt without flavor worthy of nothing but to be trampled underfoot (cf. Matt. 5:13). Let us not forget that the Church is called to be the leaven and salt of this world, its conscience which reminds it of the ultimate heavenly reality to which all mankind will be held accountable (whether one believes it now or not), even when the world does not want to hear it. 

The call to inner self-examination and repentance does not make us impotent and mute before evident and manifest sins. Thus the misuse of certain people who claim that it is Christian love to approve of sin, conveniently hiding behind "who am I to judge," is nothing short of heresy and godlessness, it is indeed truly hateful for we become willing accomplices in the spiritual destruction of our neighbor. While in reality, it is his spiritual well-being which should be our sincere and heartfelt concern. Love is the keeping of Christ's commandments, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:2-3), even those concerning our sexuality. This is the Gospel love of neighbor, the intent and will to live in the image Christ. So we see that Godly love is not the detached amorphous, evanescent “love” of the modern world, something St. Theophan the Recluse calls “indifferentism” (see on this blog the article “On Truth and Love” for more on that subject). Modern man is just fine with spiritual suicide, while a Christian is concerned for the eternal soul and life of a person, and indeed all of humanity. Real abiding Love is grounded in the person of God and is manifested in the keeping of His commandments: that is the desire and intent of will to live according and be conformed to the clear revelation of Christ. Christians, of course, rise and fall and struggle with sin, but the issue at hand is a blatant justification of sin, its “normalization,” which indeed is the greatest lack of love. The justification of sin is the justification of death, hatred, and the devil, and all that is contrary to goodness, life, love and God.

 St. Paul tells us, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). This “new” revelation and "gospel of love” and “toleration” (rather “totoleration”) seems to be a new wonderful heavenly angel sent to set mankind free; their murky aura infatuates so many people today. But they are "freedom" that ends in destruction. We are further forewarned, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! … For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away from the truth” (2 Tim 3:1-5, 4:3-4). Further, the faithful of the Lord proclaim, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20). What is the Christian called to do? “Brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15) and "contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the eternal revelation of Truth, the image for a truly human life, and for the life of the world this Gospel must remain eternally the same, as is Christ the Lord (cf. Heb. 13:8). World, your mad rush into a pleasure-loving orgy has only one end: the loss of your soul and destruction. I would be remiss if I remained silent, but we may all take heart for the Church stands in the wilderness crying to all who have ears to hear: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).