Saint Silouan the Athonite was once traveling by train with an archimandrite who was a zealot [quick] to correct others about the True Faith. Coming upon a group of traveling Roman Catholics, St. Silouan’s traveling companion proceeded to tell them that they must become Orthodox because their faith was without grace.
The saint asked him if it were indeed a fact that Roman Catholics believed that Christ was true God and that he was present in the Eucharist. The saint asked: was it not true that these Catholics believed in the Trinity, and venerated the holy Virgin and the relics of saints? The archimandrite answered yes to all the questions. St. Silouan responded that of all humanity’s faiths, we must know that we have perhaps more, but not to judge those who are not Orthodox. We must rejoice in the knowledge of what they do have. The saint told him that we should not be filled with such pride as to think we have the right to judge, correct, or teach others.
This does not mean that we see the Church as divided, or that the Orthodox Church is anything less than the Church Christ founded. What it does mean is that we do not allow ourselves to think we have the right to correct or teach anyone. We must honor other people’s beliefs and not give in to the prideful stand that we have the right to teach or correct them. The truth that is found within Orthodoxy must be shared by living our faith in love, not in judging or correcting others. Truth, wherever it be found, is Orthodox Truth. If other religions embrace some of these truths that are Orthodox, we must rejoice and give thanks for what they do have.
People who love God and are trying to live holy lives pleasing to him, according to the knowledge that they have been given, are to be respected. They may not have the fullness of Apostolic Truth, but if they are believers in God and are trying to live a life pleasing to God, we must give thanks to Christ for what they do have. They have God as their Father, just as do we. They have the Church as their Mother only if they see in us the difference Orthodoxy has made in our lives. Being arrogant in our evangelism does nothing to express the truth of Orthodoxy and makes us nothing more than a pushy salesman at the door.
The arrogant archimandrite would better have shared the beauty of Orthodoxy had he embraced those Roman Catholics as fellow disciples of Christ. Then they would have seen in him Christ and known that Orthodoxy was a faith centered in love.