True charity

Wednesday of the 5th Week of St. Luke

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The reading today from the Holy Gospel is Luke 9:44-50.

The Lord saidLet these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

In commenting on this passage, St. Theophan the Recluse chooses to write about the words, “…whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me…”

…whosoever does not confess the Lord does not honor God, because he does not confess the God Who is the true God. The true God does not exist without the Son, Who is co-eternal and co-unoriginate. Therefore, once you cease to confess the Son, you no longer confess the true God. Only God will discern what your confession is worth; but since God is revealed to us as the true God, apart from this revelation one cannot have the true God.   – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 233

The God Whom Abraham worshipped is the same Holy Trinity Whom Christ revealed and Whom the Church confesses.   There is no other God.

Yet today many “experts,” including supposedly Orthodox bishops and theologians, tell us, “Christians, Jews, and Moslems all worship the same God, the God of Abraham.”  This, however, is not true, and for a Christian to repeat this assertion is an act of apostasy, for by saying this he denies the only true God – not only the God of Christians but of all men and all the universe – the Holy Trinity.

How do people who consider themselves Christians fall into this way of thinking?   When one examines this question, one usually discovers two reasons, an intellectual error and a spiritual problem.

Many (most?) Christians today, including nominally Orthodox Christians, have false assumptions they are not aware of, assumptions they have breathed in with the pestilential air of the times, to borrow an apt expression from the late Fr. Seraphim Rose. These assumptions include the idea that God is just out there somewhere, that no one really knows more about Him than anyone else, and most human beings are basically good people who sort of grope their way to some understanding of God based on their cultural background and do their best to worship Him in whatever way possible.  Everyone needs to do what “works for him,” i.e., what provides psychological comfort and social belonging. Theology is a hobby for priests and professors, and dogmas are really just opinions of one faction or another; all that matters is to be a “good person” who has some kind of religion.

The spiritual problem twinned with this intellectual error is the lack of heartfelt love for Christ and love for the salvation of one’s neighbor.   If someone understands Who Christ is and what He suffered for us, the blasphemy that “all religions lead to God” horrifies him; he cannot remain indifferent. Intellectual indifferentism, then, is the twin of spiritual indifference, the lack of zeal and ultimately the lack of charity. True charity must involve charity towards God, first of all, and how can one love God if one denies that which He has plainly revealed about Himself? True charity towards one’s neighbor, love of neighbor, means, above all, desiring his salvation. But there is no salvation apart from Christ.

The odd thing is that people claim that their indifferentism is a manifestation of love, when in fact it is the opposite: it is a manifestation of the most fundamental indifference to the true good of one’s neighbor. Let us pray for our hearts to be filled with the burning love of Christ Crucified for us, which must be the mark of a true Christian, so that our prayers will be more effectual for the enlightenment and salvation of our neighbor.

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