Word Magazine June 1959 Page 6-7
IDENTITY WITH GOD . . .
By Very Rev. Archpriest Michael Baroudy
If someone were to ask me to write a motto which would inspire hope for the future, especially for the immediate future which began with the year 1959, I would say without hesitation, “If God be for us, who can be against us.”
I am willing to admit, for the sake of argument, that the future of humanity, in this dark hour of human history, is somewhat veiled with mystery, that is, unpredictable. I am willing to agree that the threat to our present day civilization is great because the combined efforts of many generations of work and research, even life itself is threatened with disaster. I am willing to admit also that it is nothing short of madness for the leaders of our world’s governments to plunge this world of ours into global war when we definitely know that no one would profit by it.
This however, is only one side of the picture and therefore, it is incomplete and inconclusive. It is a picture inspiring fear because it is one which by-passes God and leaves Him out entirely. Our dependence upon physical force and misguided wisdom has done much to destroy our faith in the fundamentals of our holy religion. Let us not piously pretend that the reason for the difficulty lies entirely with those who are working against us at this time. It would be more accurate and truthful to say we are partly to blame. It would be right to bring, or rather voice a blanket indictment and say, “We are as guilty as the rest and should therefore, reconsider our own wrongdoings and shortcomings, if we are to honestly find a solution to our world problem.
Now to return to our text, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” That statement was uttered by the Apostle Paul to the Christians at Rome in order to make them think on the fundamentals of their faith. Nero, the emperor of Rome, was one of the world’s most cruel rulers. No one had taken more pleasure in destroying Christians and the Christian faith than this pagan ruler. There were under his rule sixty-million people, all of whom were nonChristians, worshippers of idols. A handful of humble Christians made their way into Rome and succeeded in converting some few hundred people. Nero’s greatest delight was to destroy them because they were troubling his mind by preaching peace. He blamed everything of bad happenings within his kingdom on the Christians to find an excuse to put them to death. So when Rome burned, which some say he was responsible for its burning, he blamed that on the Christians within his empire and set out to exterminate them. He threw some of them to hungry lions, some he burned at the stake. In order to save themselves from this brutal murderer, these poor Christians built catacombs under the ground where they had their places of worship, ikons and crosses. As a matter of fact, the sign of the cross was taught to all Christians as a safety measure to distinguish the Christian from non-Christians.
The letter to the Church at Rome was written by St. Paul from Corinth and sent by a special messenger to remind these persecuted Christians of their link with God and thus put iron into their souls. Paul wanted to remind his hearers that the final answer was not with Nero, the final word was with God. “If God be for its, who can be against us!’’ When we study this statement for what it is worth, we discover that it is conditioned on an “if ”, and that this two-letter word will make the actual difference between believers and unbelievers. God is for us and always will be for us and the rest of humanity, but are we for Him? Does God reign in our lives, does the Spirit of God inspire our deeds, thoughts and words?
There are no words more searching than our text, for God will bless the efforts of those of us who are out in the world to see that His will is the guiding principle of their very existence. We know that God will be for us when we resolve that, by His help, we would always be found on His side, determined to live worthily, embodying the principles of our holy religion — love, tolerance and good will to all without regard to color or creed.
Were it possible for us to have kept a record of the thoughts, words and deeds which were ours in the outgoing year, I wonder would we be ashamed or proud? Has the good that we have done exceeded the bad? Are we ashamed of our record and don’t care for anyone to look into it? If that is the case, please remember that we are going to be given a brand-new opportunity, a brand-new year with 365 days in which we are to start all over again. What kind of record are we going to write as we hear the Eternal Spirit encouragingly say to us, “Do better, my child don’t cry over your past failure, but set your heart and mind on doing by yourselves and everyone else what you know is right. Remember that we are never alone, even when we are alone.’’ God gives us the opportunity and the responsibility to ring true, no matter how great the difficulty might be. Remember that doing less than one’s best is sin.
At this critical moment in human history may I remind you, including myself, that God is the greatest, and most powerful reality in the world. His truth and love should be our shield and buckler, conditioning us against fear and whatever might be our lot during the coming year. Probably we have never felt how badly and how eternally we need to rely upon God and trust our all to His Omnipotent power and tender care. We would be secure if we put our security and that of our loved ones into His blessed hand. Fear cannot down us without our consent. With His promised, ever-ready help, we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” When our minds, souls and bodies are united in giving Him the right-of-way; when you and I are committed to the proposition to sticking it out with Him to the end, then and there we become invincible and unconquerable.
The sacred writer reminds us that righteousness exalteth a nation and that sin is a reproach to any people. It is not only the verdict of Scripture, but it is also the verdict of history that righteousness lived and practiced is the most powerful element, the contributive force toward maintaining a strong nation. We have arrived at a juncture in human history when we depend mostly, if not entirely, upon our military prowess, technical know how and material acquisitions. All these, of course, have their time and place. But may I remind us, that all our combined resources of whatever character, minus righteousness and the awareness of a righteous God, do not count for much. We should maintain the integrity of faith in God and of the ultimate triumph of goodness which, in the last analysis, should mean we must never lose sight of the eternal verities of life; our homes must reflect the dignity, the purity and the simplicity of the Christian faith. Strong families mean a strong nation and if we live, love, and labor toward making the home strong – our churches, our schools, our commercial and industrial enterprises will reflect the Christian ideal.
Looking retrospectively into the history of nations, we learn that what has happened will happen when any nation or set of nations will exalt man and material, rather than God, when creature-worship takes place of the worship of God, when righteousness is lost sight of by the practice of unrighteousness, by doing one’s will rather than God’s will.
Taking a bird’s eye-view of prevailing conditions in this great Republic of ours and of the overall picture of what is taking place in our midst, can we truthfully and conscientiously say that we are a nation who is justifiably proud of the fact that we are living righteously? Are we breathing the spirit of the Master who based His philosophy on the truth, whose every word and deed was seasoned by the truth, which in the last analysis, meant conformity to the Holy Father’s will and the ultimate good of man?
I said unto the man that stood at the gate of the New Year. “Give me a light that I might tread safely unto the unknown way.”
And he replied, “Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God; that shall be unto you better than a light and safer than any known way.
There is much we are not sure of as we enter 1959. But we are sure of God, and with that certainty no uncertainties really matter. Though there are unknown, unfamiliar ways ahead, we can depend upon God’s sustaining power to enable us to travel them calmly and triumphantly.
Your trouble and mine will down us apart from God but nothing and no one could, “if God be for us, who can be against us”.
I see not a step before me
As I enter another year,
But I’ve left the past in God’s keeping,
The future His mercy shall clear-
And what looks dark in the distance
May brighten as I draw near.