The root of the problem

Friday of the 11th Week of Luke

Today’s reading from the Holy Gospel is Luke 20: 19 – 26 

At that time: The chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.

The commentary by St. Theophan the Recluse on this passage might be summarized by the old saying that people get the rulers they deserve:  

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”  This means that each gets what is his own. In our times, instead of “the things which be Caesar’s” we should say, “the things which are earthly.” Also, earthly things have their turn, while Godly things have theirs. But everyone has rushed toward earthly things alone, and they leave the Godly things behind. That is why Godly things not only are left out of their proper place—that is, the first priority—but are completely forgotten. A consequence of this as if unintentional forgetfulness is that the Godly is darkened over in one’s consciousness, and then both its content and foundation become unclear. From this come weakness of conviction and unsteadiness of faith; and then alienation from faith, and influence of the winds of various of teachings. Everyone goes down this path when they begin to be careless about Godly things; society takes this path when it begins to ignore what God requires of it. When Godly things are left in the background, then emancipation from Godly requirements begins to set into society, in the intellectual, moral and aesthetic sense. Secularization (serving the spirit of the time) occurs of politics, customs, entertainment, and then of education and all institutions. At the current time, people do not think, speak, write or even keep Godly things in mind—not in any of their undertakings. Is it surprising, given such a mood, that teachings contrary to the faith find access to society and that society is inclined toward total unbelief? – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 269-270 

In today’s fevered political atmosphere, when Orthodox Christians are trying urgently to understand the nature of the civil authority under which we now live and how to respond to its demands, St. Theophan’s substitution of “things which are earthly” for “the things which be Caesar’s” might strike one as a refusal to deal with the practical questions of Church-state relations and the moral obligations of a Christian under an anti-Christian political regime.   Of course, we must struggle with such questions, and we have to find at least provisional answers sufficient to satisfy the conscience and strengthen our moral wills to face whatever is to come.   St. Theophan’s purpose, however, is not to avoid these questions, but to call us to examine ourselves in order to understand how we got into this mess to begin with.  He is calling us to repentance. 

The Lord is coming, and He will judge.  And truly, as St. Peter teaches, the Lord’s judgment will begin not with the outsiders – the neopagans, the globalists, the vulture capitalists, the communists, the Zionists, the Illuminati, whoever – but with us:  

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. – I Peter 4: 12 – 19 

St. Theophan’s lesson for us today is this: It is the worldliness of Christians that paved the way for the great apostasy we see today, of which the Antichrist nature of contemporary governance is simply a natural concomitant.  We must uproot that worldliness in our own lives and return to the Orthodox way of life, to the path of salvation.  St. Peter’s lesson for us, in conjunction with St. Theophan’s lesson, is that we should not waste time speculating about the moral state or the future judgment of outsiders, but rather repent for our own sins, obey God’s commandments, and be willing to suffer for doing so.   Judgment must begin at the house of God, that is, the Church.  

If we shall only return to a completely Scriptural and patristic worldview, and then live according to that view, in repentance, the Lord will send His holy angels to make an invisible wall around us, and we will find spiritual safety in the trials that are to come, as well as that amount of physical safety the Lord deems needed for our salvation, while He also promises us His invincible help when physical suffering is demanded. 

If, however, we cling to anti-Christian assumptions as the foundation of our worldview, we will perish.    These assumptions include the lies of feminism, Darwinism, and scientism:  Those who refuse to base male-female relations and family life on Biblical patriarchy will not be saved.  Those who believe in and teach modernist theological lies like a purely symbolic interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis and “theistic evolution” will not be saved.   Those who idolize the so-called scientific establishment and believe in it as an infallible oracle will not be saved.  You cannot live a life of repentance, or lead others to such a life, if you accept such fundamental lies into your heart as your framework for viewing reality. 

And even those who repent of the lies of modernism and insist on a radically traditional worldview can be lost through the love of money, distraction in entertainments, sexual and drug addiction, and all the other lures of the world, the flesh, and the devil.   The pride engendered by being right on the issues can make one blind to being wrong about his own behavior.   We must have both orthodoxy and orthopraxis.   We must live in humility.   There is no other way.  

Let us, then, carefully limit the time we spend watching and reading and thinking about what “they” are doing to us, and consistently spend a lot more time on uprooting in ourselves the worldliness that has made “their” dominion possible.   Judgment will begin at the house of God.  

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