Modernity and the Church
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.
Hearing and doing
One of the marks of being a Christian is reading and studying Holy Scripture. We must recognize, as an aside, how fortunate we are in the modern world to have printed copies of the Bible available easily and affordably. The earliest Christians did not have that luxury, as it was virtually unheard of and ghastly expensive to have written copies of Holy Scripture back then.
Anyways, back to it. I have begun to follow a reading plan that I heard Fr. John Whiteford put out awhile back. You read six chapters a day, one chapter from each of the major sections of Holy Scripture. So, a chapter from the Torah, a chapter from the Wisdom writings, a chapter from the Prophets etc…
This morning my chapter from the Gospels was Matthew 7. If you’ve never read it or at least haven’t read it recently, you should go and do that before proceeding. Jesus says something here that is absolutely terrifying. Picking up in verse 18,
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Right in the middle of this text..see that? Jesus says that not everyone who calls Him Lord and even prophesies, cast out demons and does wonderful works will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He says that not only will He say to them, “I never knew you” but also calls them workers of iniquity. What?! Think about this. These people, He says, will prophecy, cast out demons and do wonderful works in His Name. That indicates, to me, a certain amount of faith and we would even call them Christians. But He says that He will cast them out.
Because they will be known by their fruit. Because they will just hear but not do, He says. I’m noticing a trend among most people who call themselves Christian these days (including me). In fact, I had this conversation with a young man yesterday. I said to him that, if early Christians saw us today (in both our private and church lives), they would not recognize us as Christians. We are far too worldly.
We are far too worldly.
For example, I dare say that our forefathers in the faith would never have asked or thought, “if I go to a wedding, does that count as my Sunday obligation?” They would not have viewed attendance at Church as merely an obligation. I dare say that our forefathers in the faith would not have worried if the clothes they were wearing made them hip or trendy and they certainly would have made sure that their bodies were covered. Many of them lived in rags and abject poverty in the desert and monasteries and didn’t really care about the style of the day. Our forefathers would never have questioned “sacrificing” sleep for prayer or the giving of tithes because inflation has risen. Our forefathers in the faith never said they needed a vacation or that Church services lasted too long or that fasting isn’t necessary.
We are weak and worldly people, brothers and sisters. We have traded a way of Life, a manner of being for comfort. We have traded Christ for TV, fasting for fish on Fridays during Lent, and our preferences over prostration in humility before the majesty and grace of our Lord Jesus.
Will you join me as we purify our lives and hearts? We must flee from sin and run to Christ (1 Timothy 6:3-14). We must get rid of the things that hold us back from Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus even went so far as to tell us that, if our eye causes us to sin, we should gouge it out (Matthew 5:29)! We should be ruthless with sin and the things that can lead to sin and the world. We should be ruthless with ourselves and the passions which so easily enslave us (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Do we really think we are immune from God’s wrath because we espouse a certain set of moral imperatives? Because we go to what we call church once a week and don’t sleep around? What about what we say, the words that come out of our mouths (Eph. 4:29, James 3:10, Matt. 12:34-37, Prov. 4:24, Luke 6:45)?
We are weak and worldly, brothers and sisters. Let us fall on our faces and repent. Let us cleanse from our lives, our hearts the things of the world that we have allowed to distract us from Christ. Let us throw off the things that so easily ensnare us and turn again to Christ.
Pray for me and each other.