|Zealots, no particular cause.|
Before he exposes himself fully in your presence, he skips around the churches—let’s be clear: There is only One Orthodox Church, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, but it’s grouped (not divided) into national churches, wherein the language of worship, the customs and traditions may be unique to each. He skips around them and verbally knocks them, subtly at first so as not to appear to be giving offense. Small criticisms become greater, and if you do not object, so does his boldness.
Before you know it, you find yourself outside the Church through some technicality, and he assures you ‘it’s not your fault,’ but the fault of those who have beguiled you into believing that they are patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, and priests, when they are no such thing. The monks of Mount Athos and carefully selected, if peripheral, authorities are touted in support of his now open views. Though he doesn’t mention it, your godparents, maybe even your parents, are also imposters.
Shaken by what, it seems to you, are his impious assertions, you object. What about the good thief? He was saved, and he wasn’t baptised, nor did he know the bible or probably practice any religion, and he was perhaps even a murderer, and yet Christ saved him. The zealot corrects you, ‘There is more than one kind of baptism.’ No, not sprinkling, not pouring, no, the baptism of blood! You counter, the thief was saved by his confession, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.’
You now understand, by the signs given, in whose presence you are struggling. Of course, he’s only a man, just like you. He claims to be a Christian, even an Orthodox, but he has drawn you out of the peace of the Church by controversy, by argument. This is the sign of the splitter, that unclean spirit that tempted Christ in the wilderness, using truths to battle the Truth. He has never learned, even from that experience, that you cannot argue with the Word of God, Jesus Christ, or His disciples.
The Gospel is proclaimed. It is never subjected to argument and disputation. That’s why the rabbinical Jews despise it so much even to this day. They would have religion be exercised in the form of challenging and correcting each other, by what is called the ‘give and take’ process. That’s how they formulated their later scriptures, such as the Talmud. The New Testament scriptures are a slim volume of twenty-seven ‘books.’ The Jewish equivalent is a library of seventy-three tomes.
Discussion stopped after he defeated you with his baptism of blood thesis. You know that the good thief was saved by faith in Jesus, by turning to Him instead of away from Him. That is the teaching you had received from those who catechized you, and whom you trusted. You remember the maxim, ‘When the Word chooses to be weak, be weak with Him, and withdraw, and only when the Word chooses to be strong, then let Him be strong through you, and advance behind Him, behind Jesus.’
Baptism of blood, yes, but this is not just any death, otherwise death without repentance would qualify us for paradise. The good thief, as he himself confessed, deserved to die as punishment for his sins. That kind of death is not baptism of blood. Even though he repented by those words he spoke to the other thief, his death was still not baptism of blood. He was not being executed for his belief in and confession of Jesus, which is the baptism of blood. He entered paradise by faith in Christ’s word.
That’s a Christianity, even an Orthodoxy, that the zealot cannot abide, because it instantly cuts through the layers of preparation, instruction, discipline, sacramentalism, and canon law, that rightly or wrongly have accumulated in the Church, demonstrating who Jesus Christ is, what He has accomplished for us, and how we can receive from Him life eternal, the only life worth living. Though only one sinner entered paradise as the good thief did, as far as we know, that is enough.
It shows us that in every circumstance a man finds himself salvation is possible, membership in the Church is not only possible but inevitable, because of Christ. He instituted the Church and He lives in the midst of her, commissioning her to be His presence on earth till the end of the age. Where the Church is, we must try by all possible means to enter, accepting and following her. That’s the usual way we experience being members of one another, but Christ accepts all who turn to Him with faith.
The Church is a little bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, a Kansas farm girl, as innocent as a dove, who finds herself in a beautiful but strange and even dangerous land. Her ruby slippers, their powers unknown to her, are envied by the Witch of the West, who tries to take them from her, because she is ‘the only one who knows their power.’ The zealot is a little bit like the Witch of the West. She may frighten and threaten Dorothy, but in the end, a bucket of water thrown on her by a little girl melted her.
|‘Oh, what a world! What a world!|
Who would have thought a good little girl like you
could destroy my beautiful wickedness?’