Message—Method—Madness; Part 2

I admit that some of the  examples from Part 1 are minor mundane nuisances due to lack of understanding on the part of the common parishioner to which the common observer may roll their eyes at the silliness. This happens no matter what the denomination or group & even within the Orthodox fold. Well-meaning converts may continue in their former religious mindset while cradle Orthodox may even adopt a legalistic mindset. Such a mindset only serves to reduce the Faith to ritual perfection & canonical stringency.

However, some are truly serious incidents that had serious consequences committed mostly by those who have taken on the mantle of pastors, teachers, leaders, or mentors. Promoting such a “god” only serves to damage faith as it drives people away from Christ instead of towards Christ. The message of Christ, even when the message is correct, frequently can get lost in a poor method of delivery. When both the message & the method are wrong, madness is the result & tragedy inevitable. Additionally, the internet & wireless technology are now common with their abilities to splash such things around the world in mere minutes & many incidents like these (& even worse) can be found on numerous sites in video format. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an internet video is priceless!

In all of these types of instances God was revealed to be either powerless, cruel &/or petty. What is also sad is that these incidents did not happen in groups considered to be cultic, or at least in a couple of instances the groups in question did not start out cultic. They were all either mainline denominations or independent/nondenominational groups with fairly mainstream Christian beliefs. They are however, the end result of a legalistic mindset that has long dominated Western theology & is slowly creeping its way into the East. Many Christians decry the anti-religious attitudes & atheism promoted in academic institutions & atheist organizations. However, well-meaning & sincere Christians through lack of wisdom & understanding have done (& continue to do) more damage to the faith of Christ than any institution or organization by their Christian witness. I too can be guilty of this through my own witness & lack of wisdom; may God forgive me my foolishness when I do.

1 John 4 twice tells us that “God is love.” Therefore, He is not powerless, cruel or petty. This mindset of God’s love rather than a mindset of God’s judgement should prevail. Christ always exemplified Godly behavior that we Christians should strive to emulate. The Holy Scriptures were never quoted abusively, nor was fear was never used to coerce conversion. Even those that rejected Christ’s invitation to follow him or refused to believe in Him were treated compassionately (Matthew 19). He even allowed some of His followers to leave His fellowship (John 6). When he sent out His disciples he told them to leave the city that refused His message (Matthew 10; Mark 6; Luke 9). Christ never harmed anyone & even the lowest of sinners—thieves (Luke 23:43), non-Jews (Matthew 8:13; 15:28), tax collectors (Matthew 9:12), adulterers (John 8:11)—were treated with the utmost of compassion & love of God.

Our Lord Himself instructs us: “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you & take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, & from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away…But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, & pray for those who spitefully use you & persecute you…; for He makes His sun rise on the evil & on the good, & sends rain on the just & on the unjust” (Matthew 5:39-42, 44-45). St. Paul quotes the Proverbs with: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; & if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;” (Proverbs 25:21 in Romans 12:20). St. Paul instructs us to do all to the glory of God & cause no offense (1 Corinthians 10:31-32). St. John Chrysostom elucidates (Homilies on 1st Corinthians, Homily 25):

* [Generally I do not like to “tinker” with the writings of the Church Fathers. For the intent & purpose of this blog posting & given our modern culture however, I do not believe that it would be entirely out of order to think of “brother/brethren” as fellow Christian(s), “Jews” as religious believers & “Greeks” as those with no religious affiliation or even anti-religious sentiments] *

“…do all to the glory of God.” Perceivest thou how from the subject before him, he carried out the exhortation to what was general, giving us one, the most excellent of all aims, that God in all things should be glorified? “Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the Church of God:” i.e., give no handle to anyone: since in the case supposed, both thy brother is offended, & the Jew will the more hate & condemn thee, & the Gentile in like manner deride thee even as a gluttonous man & a hypocrite. Not only, however, should the brethren receive no hurt from us, but to the utmost of our power not even those that are without. For if we are “light,” & “leaven,” & “luminaries,” & “salt,” we ought to enlighten, not to darken; to bind, not to loosen; to draw to ourselves the unbelievers, not to drive them away. Why then puttest thou to flight those whom thou oughtest to draw to thee? Since even Gentiles are hurt, when they see us reverting to such things: for they know not our mind nor that our Soul hath come to be above all pollution of sense. And the Jews too, & the weaker brethren, will suffer the same…Because of their unprofitableness, because of their needlessness, because of the injury to our brother, because of the evil-speaking of the Jew, because of the reviling of the Gentile, because we ought not to be partakers with demons, because the thing is a kind of idolatry. Further, because he had said, “give no occasion of stumbling,” & he made them responsible for the injury done, both to the Gentiles & to the Jews;”

May the Holy Trinity not be blasphemed due to a mindset of God’s judgement (Romans 2:24; James 2:7). Let us emulate Christ in our witness to others through a mindset of God’s love (1 John 4:8, 16). May we build up the Church, the Body of Christ rather than tear it down!

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