Monday, June 13, 2016

Is Immorality the Disease or a Symptom?

Although we like to mind our own business (mostly), it is important for us as Orthodox Christians to "call a spade a spade", so to speak. That is, to speak out against immorality. This does not mean we should be judgmental (remember our Lord's admonition that "let him who is without sin cast the first stone"). But we should be clear - there is good, and there is bad, and we need to teach our children what is good and what is bad. And we need to teach ourselves too. And being clear about good and bad helps us all. If you have questions about this - how to deal with moral questions (vexing or less so)  - please talk to me. I welcome your questions in this regard. I do not welcome you deciding who is good and bad in the parish and letting them know that. If you see a problem please share with me – do not act yourself unless there is a real and imminent danger to life and limb.

But the question I think we have to consider is deeper than calling good good and bad bad. That is: is immorality the illness or is it the cause of the illness? Is it the sickness itself or a symptom of the sickness? I think we must really seriously consider that immorality in all its various forms (that we often affirm as positive despite the fact that immorality can never be positive) is not the sickness at all - but the outcome of the sickness. What is the sickness then? I would propose it is this: society does not know Christ. They do not understand Who God is and what He wants from us. People do not value what God values because they do not know Him. And if that is the case - if immorality is a symptom rather than the disease - then the fault for immorality lies with someone we might not think about. It lies squarely with us!

If we had the cure for cancer we would scream it from the housetops, we would email everyone we knew. We might even buy a billboard. We would most certainly put it on Facebook. And we would be so thankful that we had the opportunity to save friends, loved ones, even perfect strangers from the terrible curse that is cancer!

But we have have the cure for something that is not a bodily disease. We have the cure for the most significant ill that has even befallen mankind. We have the cure for death. Not cancer. Not heart disease. Not any other terrible bodily disease. We have the cure for all of it - we have the cure for death. And we don't tell anyone about it. We don't scream it from the housetops. We don't put it on Facebook. We don't tell our friends, loved ones, and certainly not perfect strangers (that would just be weird, right?)!

The question is: why do we keep it a secret? Do we believe that the Lord came to earth to establish a set of secrets that only a select few can know and that only those select few can attain the heavenly kingdom? That everyone else is just out of luck? Of course that is completely ridiculous! We all know that the Lord came to save all men: Jews and Gentiles alike. And we know that everyone should know about Christ! That everyone should know He is the Savior! And we also seem to know that SOMEONE ELSE needs to tell all these people about Him that do not know Him.

But wait - is that possibly what the Lord's incarnation meant? That the vast majority of His followers should delegate the responsibility to tell others about Him to someone else? This can't possibly be right! But check yourself - when was the last time you told a friend about Christ? When was the last time you mentioned to a loved one that they would be welcome at St. Vladimir's? When was the last time you liked a post on our Facebook page so that your Facebook friends would see that you are a Christian and hopefully be influenced to consider this life for themselves as well? When was the last time, when someone started talking smack about Christianity, that you called them on that and set them straight?

Orthodoxy does not have the tradition of proselytizing "in your face". That means Christianity does not have that tradition. If people engage in this sort of enterprise they are outside the accepted tradition of the Church - full stop. But I think we can all agree that we also are not to keep the Good News of the Gospel a secret. To hide it away and pretend that during the week we are secular humanists and that we are Christians from 10:00 a.m. - 12: 00 p.m. Sundays cannot possibly why God became man.

So how do we square this circle? How do we find the happy medium where we are not engaging in non-Christian proselytizing but we are also not keeping the Good News a secret? Where we do not put this light under a bushel, to steal the beautiful King James expression of this concept? Let's discuss here! And let's pray! As with many seemingly irreconcilable issues having to do with faith we must have hope that the Lord will guide us to the middle path through prayer, even when we cannot see that middle path yet ourselves.

The Lord has given us the Pearl of Great Price - the True Faith. The greatest gift to mankind in the history of the world. Let's seriously consider how we will answer the Lord for this great gift He has given us. Because we will need to provide that answer - there is no doubt about that. Thus, we can help each other by working on real, tangible, practical ways that we can help others to share this great gift. For this is not a gift that is limited - there is enough for everyone, and moreover, the more people that share in this gift the more precious it becomes to each one that shares it. If we can do this - if we can cut off the disease that causes the symptom of immorality in our society - then we will not have to worry about trying to fight immorality - it simply will not exist. Not because we have devised a suitable police state to repress it, but because no one will be tempted to engage in it. If all know God then all will be repulsed by immorality. Until that is the state of affairs in human society we have lots of work to do. Let's begin today by living a Christian life ourselves. Our family life, our public life, and especially our life when no one else is watching. For then it is only God, our Guardian Angel, and us. No external force will make us behave. But if we love God we will in fact not want to disappoint Him - we will have no desire to misbehave while having a strong desire to do right in God's eyes. And if we can get to that point, if we can work seriously on our transfiguration as His children, then, as St. Seraphim of Sarov says, 1000 around us will be saved. Based on our membership this year that is 138,000 people that should be saved. That's a good start for this year! And the next year we should be at 138,000,000 (1000 times more than the previous year). And so on and so forth. If we live as Christians, if we do not hide Christ from others, then even a small group of people can bring Christ to many. Now we just have to get to work.

May God strengthen us! Let us begin today! And let us not blame immorality only on the immoral. Yes - we all have free will to do good and do bad. But if we have not allowed those around us to know Christ then how can they use their free will for what is right? That is - if they do not know what is moral how can they make the moral choice?

Let us get up off the couch, look in the mirror, and understand that we are looking at the person that can change things. Wringing our hands, complaining, and especially being less than ideal exemplars of a morally upright life will do nothing. But we can make a difference by deciding to follow Christ not just in deed, but also in word. Not just when others are looking, but always. When we finally get to that place - when we finally wake up spiritually - we will begin to transform. And then the multiplying by 1000 will begin in earnest!

Fr. Gregory

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