Bold Faith in a Secular World

Photo: pravmir.ru Photo: pravmir.ru     

Eastern Orthodox Christianity is timeless, beautiful, and profoundly critical, crucial and relevant in today’s world as a testament to God’s eternal love and glory. It is also in dire and critical need of a reset. Yes. A reset. And not a reset to conform to the mores and ways of our modern and secular world, but a rejuvenation, reconnection and reestablishment of our very foundation.

As Orthodox Christians, we cannot afford to become enmeshed in the ways of the world because in doing so, our faith is being diluted day by day. We dangerously become Orthodox in name only but not in spirit. How can I make such a bold accusation? Because we are called to have bold faith. And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14). A cautionary warning to this very day.

I will never forget an experience that I often reference in my faith walk. I attended a Lenten Retreat at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York state, Sin: Primordial, Generational, and Personal. Father Thomas John Hopko, memory eternal, was the keynote speaker and led us in diving deeper into our understanding of the strongholds of sin and how we can break and heal sin both personally and within our own families.

And yet, sin is something that many times we dare not speak. It is too loaded a concept, even for Christians. We instead, want to be politically correct. Non-judgmental. We often reference, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her (John 8:7), Yet, we do not finish this passage of scripture where our Lord says: Sin no more. We also conveniently forget that we are to have “righteous judgment” for our brothers and sisters and that we can serve as guide posts to each other on our faith journey. Jesus said: Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). We are not here to condemn, but to witness, testify, and strengthen.

We go to church, our holy houses of God. We worship and partake in the mystery of our Lord. We receive the sacrament of Communion. Yet, too often, our spiritual life is confined within the walls of our parishes. We make a clear demarcation between living a life for the Lord inside our churches and living as we choose outside our church home.

And this, as was relayed by Father Thomas John Hopko, is the great amartia, literally “missing the mark”. We miss the mark. And we also miss the mark when we hesitate or are fearful to share God’s Holy Word and support each other to veer back towards the single perfect point, which is our Lord and our God. This is our daily walk. And He is our daily bread.

Every day we must choose love over fear. Love for our neighbor. Serving God’s children in need is not an afterthought. We throw crumbs to His children when we should be placing a banquet before them. They are deserving of more than a blessing box placed on church grounds, they deserve to be blessed everyday by our hands and our mercy. Charitable giving and financial donations matter but we should also incorporate spaces in every Orthodox Church Community Center to serve those in need as other denominations rightly do, with food pantries, a clothes collection closet, soup kitchens, and warming shelters. And educational space for outreach. Love and mercy are not mere words, they are action. And every day is an opportunity to be God’s love and mercy to our neighbors and to those suffering, seeking to not only survive but to thrive.

We come together and work hard to put on our agoras and festivals, which of course, everyone enjoys. But I want to be known to others foremost as the church who serves God’s children, not only the church who serves gyro sandwiches. This is not meant to be flippant, but instructive.

Its time that we take a hard look at our inheritance as the Early Church. The apostolic church of the disciples of Christ, for we are also disciples of our Lord. The Church whose believers risked their lives to serve the Lord. Who were unafraid. Who had bold faith. And who strived to live according to God’s laws, not bending God’s laws to accommodate our desires, needs, and conveniences, to a secular world whose values, ethics, morality, and mores shift by the minute. Not conforming to the world but abiding in God’s everlasting protection and grace. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world (John 15:18-19).

And I do not write as an observer. I write as a pilgrim. As a prayer warrior and kingdom worker. I know my true identity and purpose. And it will not change despite any persecutions, trials, nor hardships encountered in this life, both earthly and divine. 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 (Ephesians 6:12).

Its time. Its perhaps long past time—to ask the hard and difficult questions. To have real, open, and honest discussion. To realign our priorities with God’s law and mandate over our lives. To be on fire once again for His Holy Word and move in the world with passion as witnesses to His Light, not as those who dim their light to appease others.

Let’s remember who we are as a child of God. He made us. We belong to Him. Our stories matter. Our suffering matters. Our overcoming and triumph matters. Let’s have bold faith. Let’s have the courage for a reset not only of our Holy Orthodox Church but for our very souls.

Jackie Morfesis is an author, advocate, poet, artist, and educator. She holds a BFA in Fine Arts from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and her teacher certification and Masters degree in Liberal Studies from Rutgers University. She held a one-year Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship to Greece and has published two books, Persephone Rising and Mermaid Crossing. She is devoted to prison ministry and outreach.

Jackie Morfesis

12/7/2021

Comments
AP12/20/2021 5:45 pm
This article really inspires me and I go back to it often. Thank you so much!
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