|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Mission|
A small business owner once told me of a guaranteed way to get rid of pesky telemarketers. "Whenever the salesman calls and immediately goes into his sales pitch," he said, " interrupt him and ask, ĎAre you a born again Christian?í If he replies ĎNo,í you say, ĎWell, I am and I donít deal with people who arenítí Ė and hang up. If he replies ĎYes,í you say, "Well Iím not and donít deal with people who areí Ė and hang up. It works every time."
A couple of years passed before I was quick enough to remember the story during one of those frequent dinner-time phone interruptions. As the pitch began I said, "Are you a born again Christian?" The caller, stunned, asked: "What am I supposed to say?" I said, "Just answer the question. Are you a born again Christian?" "No," he replied. I said, "Well I am and I donít deal with folks who arenít!" I hung up. Forgive me, but my wife and I had a good laugh. Before the chuckles faded the phone rang again. "Hello?" The voice on the other end shouted, "I am! I am! I am!" (Ha! Talk about a conversion!)
We donít like to be rejected. No one does. Yet, Christís disciples should expect to be rejected and even hated:
When we run from rejection, hatred, scorn and derision, we are no different than the disciples that fled the scene when it included crucifixion. But they changed. They were converted. We, too, must convert Ė be willing to die for the Faith Ė before we can evangelize. Now you might say, "Gee, that sounds a bit extreme." I agree with you. But the Faith is not something that we make up. The Faith is not something that necessarily soothes us. The Faith is a precious gift from God that requires ALL of us: mind, body, and soul. We may have to die many "little deaths" before the big one that terminates our earthly sojourn. For now, Christ calls us out of the world Ė He consumes us Ė and sends us back with fear of God and full of the Holy Spirit to bring in the harvest. We must die for Him to live in us. We must allow our pride to die; our greed to die; our wants to die; our wills to die; our dreams to die; our feelings to die Ė we must die. Death is the first step in evangelism.
Like St John the Forerunner, we must say of Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease" [John 3:30]. In taking up our cross daily we crucify our sinful selves only to be raised up to glory and thereby become co-workers with God for the salvation of the world. This is the promise, this is the mission. Evangelism begins with death. We are not to slay our brother for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, it is ourselves who must be slain. This is the Way of Evangelism.
If we do these things we fulfil the commandments of Christ to love God and our neighbour. This sounds simple. It is simple. God is simple. For fallen humans, it is terribly hard. It is much easier to spout doctrine, judge our neighbour, be puffed up with pride Ė and hide.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus
Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at
His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be
ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke,
exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
God forbid that we Orthodox un-shoulder the burden that God has placed on us. Rejection of our calling equals rejection of the Kingdom. We have a calling to share this precious Faith with the world for its salvation. This salvation was purchased by the Blood of the Lamb. This Faith has sprung from the blood of the martyrs and the prayers of the saints. This Faith, this Church, the gates of hell shall not prevail against. We are the people of God; the time is now. Let us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Let us struggle to die to self and to be found in the presence of God and others.
The final step in evangelism is trust. In dying to self, being present with God and others, we trust. We trust that through our imperfect and unworthy efforts, God will bless the increase and the Holy Spirit will lead others into the Church.
Article published in English on: 27-8-2009.
Last update: 27-8-2009.