August 10, 2009

"Foolish" Discussion

(By Mulugeta Negash)
As the forces of Satan are getting smarter and stronger, we, the “foolish” Orthodox Christians all over the world exhaust a great deal of energy and time in petty infighting; many hierarchies, particularly in Eastern Europe, have almost no personal contact with their flocks. Many hierarchies and clergy are arrogant and condescending toward the faithful.

No one in the Islamic world is talking about abolishing or shortening Ramadan, but some in the Orthodox world are talking about abolishing some fasting periods, shortening others. Muslims maintain the appearance of their faith, while many Orthodox clergy are embarrassed or ashamed to be seen in public looking like Orthodox clergy. Muslims maintain the tradition of stopping to pray at the given times several times a day, while Orthodox Christians are seeking to reduce the already scant time we spend in the Divine Services.

One could go on with such comparisons, but the point has to do with commitment, discipline and self-control. And these qualities shouldn't be obtained by force or by the sword, like the Muslim community obviously show, but by our self-generated initiatives, because, if other humans force us to execute our faith-related duties with the fear factor (dread of devils), we'll of course be driven far away from the holy spiritual work, from the one and true God.

Faith can only be challenged by faith; commitment can only be faced with commitment. We, as Orthodox Christians cannot offer anything that will counter a committed Islamic missionary effort while we are occupied only with provincial and local problems, with petty self-interest, with "defending MY turf" against other Orthodox clergy. The divided state of the Orthodox Church today, world-wide, and the internecine power struggles undermine and weaken the Orthodox Christian witness. Self-interested fear of each other on the local level can only make the problems we face more systemic and pervasive. Moreover, they are a betrayal of the true Gospel and of the powerful faith.

All make themselves more aware of this challenge and that we struggle, primarily with our own selves, to overcome our own pettiness and find a greater unity of spirit and purpose. Instead of having a delusion of "competition," we should be sharing the resources that each has to offer, and strengthening the commitment of our selves and the faithful. Everyone has some ability to offer, and we need to be willing to share our "self" with all for the sake of the Gospel and in order to face, with a unity of love for Christ, the challenges and temptations that are so rapidly arising before us.

The devil does not get desperate, however strong, the person whom he fights is. The devil wants to resist God's Kingdom by every means and rejoices when he is able to overthrow "if possible, even the elect." (Matt 24:24).

Our faith, our Kingdom will continuously be tempted, but we need to restore our confidence in learning that the temptation of Christ by Satan is a comfort for us in all our trials.

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:11, 12)

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