Thursday, November 20, 2014

Brotherly love

How good, how delightful it is
for all to live together like brothers:
fine as oil on the head,
running down the beard,
running down Aaron's beard
to the collar of his robes;
copious as a Hermon dew
falling on the heights of Zion,
where Yahweh confers His blessing,
everlasting life.
Jerusalem Bible

Many of my Protestant and Orthodox friends have pretty serious problems with Roman Catholicism, and they don’t understand why I don’t, and why I don’t place Roman Catholics in a separate category ‘from us.’ Well, truthfully, I do have problems with Roman Catholicism because of the doctrines that it has added to the ancient faith. I also have problems with Protestantism in its various forms and in different degrees, depending on how much of the ancient faith it has defied, neglected, or abandoned. And with Orthodoxy, well, what can I say? I do have problems with it sometimes too, because at its worst it can be very childish, contrary, and spiritually stingy. For all that it has been given, it ought to be childlike, trusting, and dependably merciful, all the time. But—thank God!—it’s all too human, and sooner or later it comes to its senses and admits, ‘among sinners, we are chief.’

Back to why I don’t shun and visibly disapprove of Catholics, or for that matter, others even more different from ‘us Christians,’ such as Mormons, JW’s, Jews and Muslims, all of whom claim to worship the ‘One God.’ Well, there is no easy answer to this question.

I call everyone I meet ‘brother’ or ‘sister,’ inwardly if not audibly (it might offend some of them), because Christ calls everyone brother or sister without qualification. It also does no one any good to emphasize our differences. Though we don’t usually kill each other bodily when we don’t agree, we often still do socially and spiritually. Peace and a spirit of cooperation are sacrificed to mere ideas, our own which we think true, and we break the second of the two great commandments, to love our neighbor. We must not realize who our neighbor is, otherwise we wouldn’t treat Him like this. ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of these, that you do unto Me.’

Especially with other believers in Christ, regardless of their doctrinal positions, if we must differ with them, let us do so fraternally, remembering that from Christ’s perspective, ‘orthodoxy doesn’t exist,’ only ‘love which covers all offenses.’ All offenses, much to our dismay, includes the most horrendous—lying, thieving, robbery, rape, assault, even murder—so let’s be happy to exercise ourselves spiritually by loving others who only differ from us in beliefs or customs, and treat them in the same friendly way that Christ treats us. That seems the least we can do.

Don’t just agree with these thoughts mentally, but act on them whenever you can. Holy apostle Paul writes, ‘Test yourselves. Make sure that you are in the faith,’ and James, the brother of the Lord adds, ‘don’t just say you believe, do something!’

Without pressing against the obstacle of our mortal flesh, we can never become spiritually strong or morally healthy. Therefore, let us do as holy Paul entreats, and test ourselves. This is not a doctrinal ‘multiple choice,’ but a moral probe into our hearts. Who or what do we have in there?

Let none of us be found sleeping when the Lord comes, ‘for the time is close.’ Let Him find us as we were when He left us, when He ascended on high: united, loving each other as He loves us, and looking earnestly upwards, so as to receive our sight.

Save, O Lord, Your people, and bless Your inheritance!

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