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(Disclaimer: While this is biased towards Orthodoxy [obviously], I encourage everyone of all denominations to read this, as the message is beneficial to all.)

Let us begin by summarizing the ways in which Christians approach the world, best summed up by Father Andrew Stephen Damick:

  1. Rejection, resistance, and hostility: This approach sharply distinguishes the Church from the world, emphasizing that the Church is so much “not of this world” that the world must be fled and an alternate community established. It is a posture that is fully closed to the world — neither in the world nor of the world.
  2. Accommodation, adaptation, and merger: This approach asks the world what its problems are and then revises Christian faith and practice in order to bring care and comfort to those around the Church. It is a posture that is fully open to the world — both in the world and of the world.
  3. Engagement, selection, and transfiguration: This approach sees what is good in the world and highlights that, seeking to interpret all things so that all might be pointed to Christ, so that everything might be baptized and transfigured to reveal Christ. It is a posture that has a discerning openness to the world — in the world, but not of the world.

I believe that #3 is the authentic Christian witness, the one witnessed to in the Scripture and the Church Fathers. Both #1 and #2 have truth in them, and what truth they have should not be ignored. But the best of what they have to offer is already in #3, and the worst of what they have to offer is really based in fear — #1 is afraid of the world, and #2 is afraid of the Church.
Father Andrew Stephen Damick, Roads from Emmaus

Not only in writing is this true, you can find this in practice as well. The Westboro Baptist Church (for lack of a better example) is a prime case of Christians that use #1, using disdain, slander, and most of all, hate, to forward their message. Yet, ironically enough, these are the "Christians" (using the term on them might be generous) who get the most attention. Misrepresentation aside, this is not what any Christian or any group of Christians should be. This would be the worst method of interaction with the world, where you create a divide between those who are self-righteous (the Christian group/person) and those who need saving (the world). It is loveless, and given that sin only breeds more sin, will lead to more hate, more disdain.

To provide an example to #2 would be something alike the mainline Protestant traditions. Adaptation to the world to the point of changing traditions that made the church what it is today, the very foundations of it. Openness is wonderful and needed in the Christian faith, but not to the extreme where surrendering the faith is the implemented choice. While better than #1, this is something that shouldn't be implemented. However, at least some of these churches have some truth still intact.

The best way to interact with the world as a Christian or a Christian group is #3, as it encourages reaching out into the world, but not to bring the world back in, rather new Christians, who are beginning salvation and are on their way to sanctification. Where people have gone from being of the world, to being new and restored people in Christ. This approach is not of hate ("tough love" included, as some may wish to call it), not of the "love" where we surrender who we are in the process of accommodation, but of pure, patient love. The Orthodox Church strives for this, and has done an amazing job of doing so. Obviously, we fall short, the Church does have humans in it. However, it would be a disservice to say that the Orthodox Church has ever been exclusive nor changing what it stands for, just so we can be more convenient to the sinful lifestyles of the modern world.


Archbishop Iakovos, Martin Luther King Jr., and other dignitaries walking to the Dallas County Courthouse to hang a funeral wreath in honor of Reverend James Reeb, a civil rights activist who was beaten and killed by white segregationists, Selma, Alabama, March 1965 / Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Orthodoxy has stood up for justice and truth and love in all times needed, from the U.S. civil rights movement, to the protection of the environment, and to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East (including the Palm Sunday 2017 Coptic church bombings). Yet during all of this, we have not surrendered our Holy Tradition. We are a living example of inclusitivity but holding the truth firmly close to us.

God's blessings,
-EP

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Elliott Pardee

code // theology // life

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