Sunday, July 9, 2017

fools for Christ?

Trinity Four May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a tendency among those with a distaste for religion to believe that a lack of belief in God is a hallmark of intelligence; and that reason and rational thought is something that is the preserve of the atheist. One might be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps to their horror and bemusement, that there is a biblical justification for their beliefs. In our gospel reading today we hear our Lord say: 'I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants'. If Christ himself says that those who are wise and intelligent are the ones who reject his teachings and those who accept it are like innocent and trusting babes in arms, then who are we to argue? But of course Jesus is speaking with a certain irony here; and all the Church Fathers agree that his intent is not to praise those who turn their face from the Truth of his Word, but to condemn them; for what they consider to be their wisdom and intelligence is more to be thought of as an arrogance and pride that has led them very much astray. They may be wise in their own eyes; and in the eyes of the worldly; but they are not wise in either of the eyes of the Creator or his faithful children.

The reasons as to why a person might reject God are too numerous to go into here. But suffice it to say that it should be a cause of great sorrow to all Christians that there are those who are, like them, created in God's image and likeness who will go through life without the light of faith to guide them. The world contains very many spiritual dangers indeed; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid pitfalls if you can not bring yourself to believe that holes even exist.

The lack of faith that exists in others demands a response from us. The first is to give thanks to God for our own faith – and the grace he grants us when faced with the many temptations that can cause one to fall away from the faith. We should also give thanks for those who have passed the faith as they have received it down through the generations; and particular thanks for those who have done their utmost to pass the faith on to us as individuals. We may think here of our own parents, our teachers, and those with roles in the ministries of the Church, particularly the clergy. All these have been obedient to the responsibilities that God has placed on their lives and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for the way in which they have not only instructed us in the faith but also for how they have corrected us when they have seen us going astray. There is no virtue – quite the opposite in fact – in minding our own business when doing so means allowing a brother or sister in Christ to draw too near to spiritual danger; and it is even worse to do so when that fellow-Christian is someone we have a particular duty towards when it comes to passing on the faith to them.

The next thing that it behoves us to do when it comes to the lack of faith in others is to pray for them. It does not matter who they are. If there are those in your own family who doubt or have fallen away, pray for them. If you do not, who will? If you have friends or neighbours who struggle with the faith or have abandoned it altogether, pray for them. Are we not called by God to love our neighbour as ourself? And what greater way is there to show that love than the spiritual assistance that comes from prayer? And pray also for those you do not know, in your communities, in this nation, and in all the corners of the world who live as strangers to God. Christ told us to make disciples of all nations; and while you may not be able to touch each person who has difficulties with knowing God yourself, at the very least you may pray for them that their hearts will be opened to his Truth and his Love.

And the last thing I suggest that Christians should do in the face of the unbelief of others is to know and live their faith as best they can. Knowing our faith allows us to defend it to others – and this is very necessary in an age where so many have a very distorted view of what it is that the Church teaches, a false version of Christianity promulgated by those in the media, academia, and other sectors of society who are hostile to the faith. We must also not only know enough abut the faith to defend it properly, but also be ready and willing to do so. Allowing those who behave like anti-Christs by spreading lies about the faith to do so unchecked is something no Christian should do. Learning about the faith, by the way, is a life long task; we should never believe that we have reached a point where we do not need to strengthen and deepen our faith. That is a task that only ends when, with the Grace of God, we have reached the place we were created to be – with God in heaven.

And to do that we must do more than know the faith – we must live it out. Living it out is one of the greatest ways of bringing the faith to others. We can not hope to convince others of its truth if we do not live as if we ourselves are convinced of its truth. Living it out will put the lie to the notion that it is the recourse of fools; living it out, ceaseless of the cost, will draw others to look again at what it is that we give our lives to; and living it out will, by God's grace, help others to believe in him - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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