Saturday, October 08, 2011

Preaching the Gospel

In my last post about the movie "Arranged," I wondered out loud about how I as an Orthodox convert might be like the principal who, as an old warrior in the feminist battle, thought she knew what was best for two young women.  Someone has asked me how such a reticence to speak to others about matters of faith squares with Christ's  command to preach the Gospel.  

There are two factors that I consider very important in preaching the Gospel, factors that I think are often overlooked.  First, when we preach the Gospel, we must say as Jesus did, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  Not everyone has ears to hear the Gospel every time it is preached.  Those who do not, should not be coerced into some kind of outward show of acquiesce just because we have the power, money, clout, political will or charisma to coerce it.  And there are lots of ways we coerce those who do not yet have ears to hear.  We coerce through guilt (as opposed to conviction), through fear (and not godly fear), through bribery; we coerce in all sorts of ways because we are convinced that we know what is best for the other.  But we don't.

Think about it. Saul of Tarsus was alive while Christ was preaching.  He may even have heard Him.  Certainly he heard about Jesus of Nazareth.  Yet Saul of Tarsus did not have ears to hear until he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus.  Had no one preached the Gospel to him before?  He had been arresting Christians left and right.  Certainly someone had told him the basics of what this sect called the Way believed. He may have even heard Christ Himself during His earthly ministry.  Yet it wasn't until many years later that he had ears to hear.

And speaking of Saul of Tarsus, once he became St. Paul, he wrote a letter to the Jewish Christians in Rome, and in the second chapter of that letter he makes an interesting statement (quoting Isaiah), "The Name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you."  Why did the nations blaspheme God?  "Because of you."  What had they done?  Beginning in verse 17, St. Paul explains that they sought to teach others God's Law even though they were not living it well themselves.  And this is the second factor that must be considered when preaching the Gospel.  Perhaps the reason some people reject the Gospel and blaspheme God is because  I do not myself very well live according to the Gospel.  Maybe like the Jews Isaiah was speaking to and the Roman Christians St. Paul was speaking to, maybe I myself--my lazy lifestyle, my unwillingness to control my selfish habits, my ungenerous attitudes toward others--maybe I am the reason those around me do not yet have ears to hear the Gospel of Christ.

"Preach the Gospel," St. Frances of Assisi is reported to have said, "use words only when necessary."  

I am an Orthodox Christian.  I am 100% convinced that Orthodox Christianity is the True Faith (not a true faith).  However, that does not mean that everyone else will see what I see as soon as I point it out to them.  Furthermore, it may be that they do not see it precisely because I  point it out to them.  I have a lot of repenting yet to do.

Also, God's love for mankind is such that He is able to save anyone, anywhere, any time they are ready. He can even save Moslems, Jews, Atheists, Hindus, and murderers of Christians like St. Paul.  In fact, He is even able to save those who murdered His Son: St. Loginous, the centurion at the Cross.  I think my job is to follow St. Frances' advice and do my best to live in such a way that the "nations" will ask for an account for the hope they see evidenced in my life.

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