August 17, 2017 Length: 13:23
What does the Orthodox Church have to say about Charlottesville? In the vocabulary of the day, nothing. In the language of the redemption of mankind: the Good News of Redemption found alone in Jesus Christ, and a life committed to imitation of his Royal way. The greatest mistake any human person can make, in this situation or any other, is to think that human means and ways will solve the tragedies and disasters of the fallen world. The solution must come from outside us, above us. Salvation is not found in killing our neighbor or our enemy. Salvation is found is seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in neighbor and in blessing our enemy, both. So if you wish to be saved, and if you want to make “a positive change in the world,” look neither to the Left, nor to the Right. Look up to Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the World.
Concerning Charlottesville and Related Disasters
Fr John Parker
Chair, Department of Evangelization, Orthodox Church in America
Pastor, Holy Ascension Orthodox Church, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
A brief word cannot address a complex situation.
Orthodox Christians, through the cleansing waters of baptism and the Spirit-giving oil of Chrismation, see with new eyes, breathe with new lungs, hear with new ears, speak with new mouths, work with new hands and feet. Becoming an Orthodox Christian is a surgery for the ubiquitous and terminal disease, sclerokardia (hardness of heart) which inflicts every human being who sins (see Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 19:8, Romans 2:5, Ephesians 4:18). For God desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn and live (cf Ezekiel 18:32), and a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
The division of nations and peoples and languages was a curse visited upon mankind for our pride. In the primordial account of the Tower of Babel, human beings, desiring “to make a name for themselves” made every attempt to reach the heavens on their own, laying aside the Lordship and Kingship of God, exchanging these instead, for their own petty efforts.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
To frustrate mankind’s plan at self-aggrandizement, the Lord scattered them, confusing their languages.
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:6-9).
Following the sins of Eve and Adam in paradise, God expelled them, leaving woman to toil in labor, consigning man to labor in toil, and appointing the serpent to crawl on his belly in the dust, forever the enemy of human beings. But God himself foretold his rescue plan, through the curse to the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis mine).
The first act recorded in the Scriptures, following the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, was to procreate two sons, one of whom committed the first murder—or worse than murder, fratricide, the killing of his brother.
By the days of Noah, it had only gotten worse:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:5-7).
But Noah found favor with the Lord. And God saved righteous Noah and his family, through the waters of the flood.
This is the repeated story of mankind up until the day of the Incarnation in the Flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world to show us the way to salvation and to trample down the permanence of death, bruising the head of the serpent. And the tragedy of the world’s fallen story repeats itself daily in the lives of those who remain centered in themselves by not uniting themselves to Jesus Christ, in the ways that his Apostles instructed Christians to follow Him.
Jesus Christ told and showed man and woman alike, in word and in deed, how to live as true human beings. Here is a sampling of the Way:
Through his inspired Apostle, Paul, the Christian is likewise instructed: Do not repay evil for evil.
The Christian is not to gratify the passions of the flesh, which are plain:
…fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit [such as alt-left vs alt-right; Republican vs Democrat, etc], envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like (Galatians 5:20-21).
The Christian knows, as St Paul teaches: those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).
The Christian also knows that there is only one instance of the command “to kill” in the New Testament—and it is not related to any person. That is, the Christian is never, ever instructed to kill another human being.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you (Colossians 3:5).
Not remarkably, the Christian is to put to death, basically, the same “works of the flesh,” against which St Paul wrote to the Galatians:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:5ff).
Anyone who, wearing or carrying a cross, and calling him or herself a Christian, incites others to the works of the flesh, endorsing hatred of anyone, instructing violence or the killing of another human person, can in no way be called a Christian, and will have one day answer to God himself for being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Jesus did say,
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits, and not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
The Christian “used to” have sex outside of marriage, practice impurity, get drunk, rage, be wrathful, etc., but he or she has put these away, is disavowing them, and is a new creature—whether man, woman, child, American, African, European, Australian, barbarian, slave, or free. Whatever lot one came from, his new identity is Christ, and his new patriotism is for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Violently killing, in himself only, these un-Christian passions, the Christian is called to produce the fruit of the Spirit, against which, says St Paul also, there is no law: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
One best practices love in the face of those who hate. One best learns joy in the midst of sorrow. One best employs peace in the midst of conflict. One seeks patience in the midst of impatience. One practices kindness to the mean; One sows goodness in the midst of evil; one practices faithfulness in the trial of temptation; One attempts gentleness in the midst of storm, and One needs self-control when rage and anger boil the hottest.
To whom is the call to life like this given? To every single human person. To every man and woman on the face of the inhabited earth. To Adam and Eve, our first-parents, for whose pride, the gates of Paradise were closed, and for your pride and mine, which keep them closed today. To the descendents of Noah. To the offspring of the builders of Babel: you and me.
The Waters of Baptism wash away the dusty tattoo of our marking “fallen creature of earth”. The Baptized are no longer bound as slaves to the devil, whose name Diabolos means, “divider”. We, rather, are united!
But our union is not a union with like-minded practitioners of the works of the flesh. Our union is a union with Jesus Christ—the Way, the Truth, and the Life—apart from whom endure murder, hatred, malice, division, and the like. The Oil of Chrismation, “the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit”, inspires us to a new life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, is the Divine Reversal of the tragedy of Babel. At Pentecost, those gathered from every nation and people, heard all of the above Good News in their own languages. The joyous declaration, “Christ is Risen from the Dead, Trampling down Death by Death, and upon those in the Tombs, bestowing life!” is sung today in Churches all over the world in Swahili, and Mandarin; in Spanish and French; in Greek and Slavonic; in Romanian and Serbian; in Finnish and German; indeed, in the languages of the whole world.
The Christian longs for the day on which, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). And yet, already Jesus was slain, and by [his] blood did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…(Revelation 5:9).
What does the Orthodox Church have to say about Charlottesville? In the vocabulary of the day, nothing. In the language of the redemption of mankind: the Good News of Redemption found alone in Jesus Christ, and a life committed to imitation of his Royal way. The greatest mistake any human person can make, in this situation or any other, is to think that human means and ways will solve the tragedies and disasters of the fallen world. The solution must come from outside us, above us. Salvation is not found in killing our neighbor or our enemy. Salvation is found is seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in neighbor and in blessing our enemy, both. So if you wish to be saved, and if you want to make “a positive change in the world,” look neither to the Left, nor to the Right. Look up to Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the World