Transcendent Faith: What Makes Orthodoxy Great

Source: Orthodox Christian Network

Terrorism grips cities around the world. Violence erupts
in the United States. Christians face genocide in the
Middle East. Politics spins out of control speaking to our
worst fears. Human life becomes less valuable. The freedom
to live one’s faith without government interference
is increasingly in doubt.

It is impossible not to be afraid, and with the prevalence
of social media, every post we read becomes a trigger for
anxiety and isolation.

It’s time to stop.

Orthodox Christians are different. We belong to a Faith
that remembers, and in that memory, each of us can find
the tools to overcome the evils of today. The Orthodox
Christian Faith can transform the ugliness of the world
into something beautiful. 2016 is nothing new. The Church
has faced such challenges many times before. History shows
that Orthodox Christians are experts when it comes to
overcoming adversity and social upheaval. We even flourish
under it! If the Apostolic Faith can survive Ancient Rome
and the rule of Herod, Nero and Diocletian, then we have
the tools to answer the challenges before us.

“Christianity shows its greatness when it is hated
by the world!” writes St. Ignatius of Antioch.

However, it is not enough to simply be hated by the world.
Christians must work to heal the world. This is the true
greatness of Orthodox Christianity that St. Ignatius
describes.

There is much confusion today as to what makes the
Orthodox Church great. Today, we speak far too easily of
great councils and great churches in places like
Constantinople, Moscow and Alexandria. But what truly
makes the Orthodox Church great?

It’s easy to get confused when it comes to the
greatness of Orthodoxy.

One of the tragedies of modern times is that Orthodox
Christians constantly argue over power and status rather
than service to the weakest among us. Church leaders and
academic theologians debate who is first and who is last.
Clergy argue about the physical boundaries of Churches and
who is entitled to govern them. They debate ancient titles
that only have their place in a world that vanished
thousands of years ago. Amidst all of these arguments,
Orthodox Christians need to pause and remember that
greatness in the Church is a paradox. It is also neither a
title nor a jurisdiction. Greatness in the Church is not
about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one
can wash in the service of Christ.

The Orthodox Church is great only insofar as She is good.
The greatness of the Church is the goodness of the Church.
And the goodness of the Church is perfected in mercy and
service.

The world is in desperate need of the goodness of the
Orthodox Church today. If Orthodox Christians truly want
to heal the chaos and confusion of 2016, then we need to
practice the goodness given to us through the truth of
Jesus Christ. This does not mean building a bigger wall
around the Church and our spiritual lives. Instead, it
means constructing a larger table so that more people can
transform themselves in Christ. It is by welcoming people
to this table that we discover the true meaning of what it
means to be human and how to love one another as God
intended.

Perhaps the best advice for Orthodox Christians facing the
problems of the world comes from the second century.
Consider these words from The Letter to Diognetus about
what it means to be a Christian:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men
either by nationality, language or customs. They do not
inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange
dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their
teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the
curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion
no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and
manner of life in general, they follow the customs of
whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is
Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their
lives. They live in their own countries as though they
were only passing through. They play their full role as
citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens.
Any country can be their homeland, but for them their
homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like
others, they marry and have children, but they do not
expose them. They share their meals, but not their
wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the
desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but
they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they
yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians
love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned
because they are not understood, they are put to death,
but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich
many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance
of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their
glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is
their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.
For the good they do they receive the punishment of
malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though
receiving the gift of life. . . To speak in general terms,
we may say that the Christian is to the world what the
soul is to the body.”

“…the Christian is to the world what the soul
is to the body.” This was how one writer described
the Christians in the second century to the politicians of
his day.

Let’s work to ensure it is how the world sees every
Orthodox Christian in 2016!

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