Speaking the Truth in Love

What a sad and confused time it is in which we live! Those who are striving to be faithful to the true Christianity handed down to our latter times from our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles - the true Orthodox Christianity - cannot help but notice the many ways in which Christians today are falling away from the norms and safeguards of true Christianity which the Church has placed for our protection against the seductive temptations of this world which lies in evil.

Christians are called to be the salt of the earth; but if this salt loses the savor of true Christian life, it is therefore good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men (Matt. 5:13). This process of Christians losing the savor of Christianity naturally results in what St. Paul calls the "apostasy" - the "falling away" from Christ that is one of the chief signs of the nearness of Antichrist (II Thess. 2:3).

We must therefore be aware of our calling as Orthodox Christians. We must know that we belong to the one Church which Christ established on earth; that through it alone we obtain the grace which we must have to work our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12); that nothing else is more precious in our lives, and that we must sacrifice everything else in order to remain in the grace of Christ in His Holy Church; that we can offer nothing better to our fellow men than that they come and see (John 1:46) the life in Christ which is offered in His Church.

Especially in our times, when the Church exists in the world like an island in the midst of apostasy and unbelief, each Orthodox Christian is called to be a missionary of the true Faith.

But what kind of missionary? It is possible today to be so preoccupied with the apostasy surrounding one that one becomes simply a boaster in his own righteousness: I am not as other men are ... I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:11-12). This is the phariseeism which our Lord condemns. People who are thirsting for the life and truth of Christianity cannot help but reject such phariseeism.

True Christianity has no room for such vain boasting, nor for merely negative condemnation of the errors of others. If we wish to lead men to the living water of Christ's grace, and indeed if we wish to save our own souls, our righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees (Matt. 5:20) - it must be of a different kind entirely: not a dry "correctness" in which we take pride, but a living reflection of the life of grace which Christ has bestowed on us.

We shall be known as the disciples of Christ if we have love (John 13:35). This is the chief distinguishing mark of the Christian, as a disciple of the God Who is Love (I John 4:8).

We must speak the truth to those who thirst for it: we must tell men confused by the myriad of opinions and sects that claim the name of Christian that there is a true Christianity, handed down in an unbroken line from Christ and His Apostles to our times. But we must do this in such a loving and positive way that those who listen to our words will hear the message of the heart which Holy Orthodoxy conveys.

Speaking the truth in love is a part of our maturing in Christ, that we May grow up into Him in all things and come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:15, 13). It is our faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6) that is the test of our Christianity and at the same time our witness to that remnant of the last humanity that thirsts for this kind of Christianity.

+ Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)

Redeeming the Time

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas