It has become very apparent that our modern world, in many ways, is the enemy of a pious Christian life. I know that sounds outrageous to many people. When I talk about this with most people, even those who claim to be Christian, they mostly look at me like I have three heads. Consider with me if you will our lives in today’s world.
We are quite possibly the most distracted people in the history of humanity. That probably sounds hyperbolic, but I really don’t think it is. From the moment we rise in the morning until we close our eyes at night, we are bombarded. Our minds and hearts are in a constant state and world of noise and entertainment. Our so-called smart phones think for us. Rather, they constantly keep our minds and hearts dulled with an endless barrage of nonsense. Social media dictates our ideas to us and implants in us a worldview and lifestyle that is not only not true but is indeed harmful to our souls.
Our televisions stay on close to around the clock. From that screen, images are burned into our psyche and messages are planted in our brains that literally change the way we think. Propaganda is the norm. We are “taught” by our TVs that homosexuality and transgenderism and all the other “wokeness” is not only attractive and cool but normal and not something that should be questioned. We are given an image of what our lives should be like, how we should speak to others and how we should spend our money and time. Rarely, if ever, are these images those of the life of Christ or His Church. And if they are, the images we mostly see of Christians is either comedic and ridiculous or painted as either ignorant or “behind the times.” Christianity is not portrayed as something attractive or beautiful or fulfilling.
If we are really honest with ourselves, even the behavior of most who claim to be Christian in the modern world is a little fuzzy at best. Most modern people who call themselves Christian will openly say they have no problem with homosexuality or promiscuity or whatever else is corrupting our society. They tacitly approve of sin with expressions like, “It’s none of my business,” or, “You do you,” or, “Follow your heart.” And the worst is, “You have to follow your truth,” as if Truth were something that is entirely subjective and up to you. Or, even more sadly, those who claim to be Christian participate in these sins.
If you want to know how Christians are supposed to live, I suggest a few things. Number one, read Holy Scripture. The Scriptures are resplendent with instructions and commands we are to live by as followers of Christ; both Old and New Testament are important. After all, God has not changed His mind about what holiness is. As we review just the New Testament, it becomes readily apparent that most of us (including me) are not living as the Scriptures tell us to. Even a cursory consideration of our lives will show us that.
Another thing that we can do is to read the lives of the Saints. These brothers and sisters in the faith lived luminous lives of faith, chastity, asceticism, and holiness. That’s why they are Saints. Frankly, when I read the lives of the Saints, I am embarrassed by how weak my own faith is and how poorly I live my life. Another group that we can emulate as much as possible and learn from are the Church Fathers. If you want to know how Christians should live and what they should believe, these men are humble and brilliant examples and teachers. There is much more I could say about the Fathers but I will refrain right now. You can also study the lives and writings of the monastics. Although they are, in many ways, outside our experience, we can learn much from them.
Last but certainly not least, we see how Christians are supposed to live by emulating the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. You may say, yes but that’s Jesus, and I can’t be Jesus. No, you and I cannot be Jesus. But we can be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) and we should be. We have put on Christ and therefore should look like Him (Romans 13:11-14, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 3:9-12, Ephesians 4:22-24).
We are to be different than the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We should look different, walk differently, talk differently, have different priorities etc. Our love for the world, wordly things and ways are anti-Christian (1 John 2:15-17). In fact, they make us anti-christs. My brothers and sisters, we need to repent. For the sake of our souls, we need to turn again to the Lord Jesus and forsake the world. If we do not, we will perish. Go into your prayer “closet,” stand before the icons, prostrate yourself and beg God’s forgiveness. Ask Him for His strength to stand against the world and things thereof. Come out from among them and be ye separate.
Pray for me and each other.
When I was a rookie police officer, my training officer and I went on a domestic disturbance call. There were many such calls over the years, but I’ll never forget this one. We got there and could hear a man and woman shouting at each other in the house. My training officer pounded on the door. The door was jerked open from within, and things got suddenly real quiet. We walked in the house.
Now, I have to tell you why things got so quiet. I’m not a big dude. I’m barely 5’9” and weigh maybe a buck seventy. Back then, I was lighter, probably around 160 lbs. My training officer, however, was another story. About 6’4” and weighed about 250 and it was all muscle. He was a big guy and looked very intimidating.
We walk in the house and my TO picked up the TV remote. He turned the channel and said, “Ya’ll be quiet; Andy’s on.” And so, we watched a few minutes of the Andy Griffith show. I had no idea what was going on but knew that this was NOT how they taught us to handle domestics at the academy. At a commercial break, my TO looked at both them and said, “Ya’ll don’t be ugly.” He got their names and we walked out.
Ya’ll don’t be ugly.
It’s a southern thing.
I tell that story to start this conversation about ugliness. If you pay attention at all to what is happening in the world, you can see quite clearly the ugliness of the world around us. There is so much hate, so much vitriol, so much tension. Rage seems to just ooze out of everyone. Our public figures (especially our President) just seem to be angry all the time about everything. The fact that we even have conversations about abortion and war and mass shootings and suicide and drug overdoses (and the list could go on) should illustrate to us how ugly and bitter and destructive the world is.
This is a real struggle for me right now. I see the ugliness of the world. I see the destructive and satanic agenda being pushed, especially on our children, and I am anxious and angry and feel the proverbial walls closing in. The fact that people either seem oblivious to this or don’t seem to care and just keep kicking the can down the road is unfathomable to me. Going along to get along and keeping quiet while the world descends into hell is unacceptable.
But here’s where it really strikes home for me. I was recently reading a book review of a compilation of sayings from St. Silouan, a Russian ascetic. One of the sayings jumped off the page at me.
“Of a truth I say, speaking before God whom my soul knoweth: in the spirit I know the Most Pure Virgin. I never beheld her, but the Holy Spirit allowed me to know her and her love for us. Had it not been for her compassion I should have perished long ago; but she was minded to come to me and show me, that I might not sin. This is what she said: ‘I find your ways ugly to look upon.’ And her words, soft, quiet and gentle, wrought upon my soul. More than forty years have passed since then but my soul can never forget those sweet words, and I know not what return to make for such love towards my sinful self, nor how to give thanks to the good and forbearing Mother of the Lord.”
“I find your ways ugly to look upon.”
I cannot stop hearing it in my soul. “I find your ways ugly to look upon.” Can you feel how that quiet whisper crashes into your heart? Oh, how this convicts me! How far I have fallen from the ways of our Saviour. How far I have fallen from the ways of His Blessed Mother. How far I have fallen from the ways of the saints.
I read Holy Scripture and the things that our Lord Jesus said and did, the things that His Apostles said and did, the words of the Fathers and the saints and I am ashamed. I am ashamed of myself. Far too often, my ways are ugly to look upon. My selfishness, pettiness, anger, greediness, and worldliness are so very ugly. So very sinful. Wretched man that I am. I live such a silly and frivolous life. My heart is too easily distracted by silly things that have no eternal value. I think we’re all like this at times. We read the lives of our Lord, His Apostles, the Fathers and the Saints and we should be struck by the differences in ourselves and them. There was an intensity and focus and sobriety about them that we are sorely lacking. Or maybe it’s just me.
Pray for me, brothers and sisters. Pray for yourselves. Let us fall on our faces and repent of our ugly ways. Turn off the TV, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Turn away from the world. Turn again to the staggering beauty of our crucified Lord. Turn again to the purity and piety of the ascetical life of the Church. Turn again to prayer and the life of the Christian. Partake of the Liturgy and the Body and Blood of our Lord as often as possible.
May God forgive us for the ugliness of our lives and hearts. May He grant us His beauty and peace as we turn again, over and over, to Him.