Word Magazine November 1958 Page 3/12
THE PARAGON OF A CHRISTIAN LIFE
By Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
Archpriest, St. George Orthodox Church
In Matthews Gospel, chapter 7, verses 21-23. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And in your name cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
In no other place in the entire Bible do we find a clearer, though a terse statement, as to the practical aspect of Christianity. Whoever reads Jesus’ life’s story as presented to us in the Four Gospels can’t help but come to the definite conclusion that Jesus’ creed was the will of the Heavenly Father. His life from the cradle to the cross is a running commentary on that fact. His awareness of the heavenly Father and His blessed will were the prime factors, the propelling motives behind every word and deed of his. His every effort was bent in compliance and conformity of that will.
There is no wonder, indeed, that Jesus was considered radical, revolutionary by the rank and file of the heads of the churches in his day. There is no wonder, indeed, that they tried to discredit him, to call him names, to spy on his every word and deed. He sought to glorify God at all times and under all circumstances, but they sought the glory, and plaudits and praises of men. The leaders of his day gloried in one-day religion: they were concerned of being seen of men than being actually alive to do the will of the Heavenly Father.
Our text is taken from the Sermon on the Mount of our Lord and contains a warning as to what would be the lot of those who profess to be godly, rather than being godly, who are saints on Sundays, but sinners the rest of the week. The first thing we observe by this declaration is the futility of professing what you are not. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but, he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” This is religion in its highest and best aspect. The record of Jesus’ life in the Gospels could be read in about four hours, but it takes a person a lifetime to discover the richness, the beauty and majesty of His words and deeds. Upon one occasion, Jesus informed his disciples, “If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye likewise unto them, for this is the law and the prophets. Love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”
No one could really be in doubt as to what the mind of Christ is. Yet there are people today who straddle the fence, that is, they are neither hot nor cold about religion, who can’t make up their minds whether any church is good enough for them. “There are so many different best that I am a little confused which one to join. Not creeds and denominations, each of which says it is the
only that, but there are hypocrites in the church who are not as good as I am who are members of no church.”
I wonder sometimes as to who is the hypocrite, the one inside or outside the church! The people who come to church reap a benefit which those on the outside do not. They hear God’s words and thus their lives are bound to be touched. They follow the example of our Lord who never missed going to church. They come in contact with friends and neighbors and their lives become enriched.
“But how can I find God? How can I experience Him as an ever-present friend?”, asked a young man. “Give me specific suggestions,” he said, notebook and pencil in hand. “Keep looking at Jesus as you see Him in the Gospels,” came the reply. “Imagine yourself present on the
hillside as Jesus speaks to the crowds. Ask Him questions and listen for his answers. Picture yourself with Him as He heals the sick and casts out demons. Live through the experience you read about in the Gospels until you feel that you know Him. Then, like the disciples of old, you will realize that you have found the Father.”
The acid test of any persons’ life is not whether he professed this or that creed, belonged to this or that church. The church through its minister is here to help you find your way through life, and to adjust yourself to God’s claim upon your life. The church cannot make up your mind for you, it can only point the way, but no one can live your life for you. Many of us are not what we know we ought to be and should be, because we aren’t willing to conform to God’s will. We must be clean in all of our dealings with our fellow human beings, our motives must be pure, we must harbor no bad thoughts, bear no grudges, speak evil of no man. Doing the will of the Father, if practiced, will transform this world of ours from an armed camp that it is today, to a place wherein dwelleth righteousness, and from a scathing caldron of suspicion and hate, double dealing and hypocrisy, to an environment where love reigns supreme, where consideration, kindness and contentment are breathed on every hand.
The will of the Father was the criterion, the norm, by which Jesus our Lord fashioned his own life. And the will of the Father runs counter to the will of men. It will lead you into the very jaws of the lion many times. It is living dangerously. God says yes to you, but the world says no, you mustn’t, you shouldn’t. The way of the cross leads home, but it will alienate you from people with whom you can’t have any fellowship without compromising your convictions, your ideals and principles.
God’s will, will transform us into better human beings and will no doubt change the course of history. Why, because it will instill in us an honest concern for the people as well as the community and the world in which we live. It will make us seek the good of all irrespective of color, race or creed. Willful disregard of the will of God and the ideals laid down and practiced by the Master, will lead to frustration and complete ruin. Today if you will give a man a friendly advice as to what constitutes right and wrong, he will think you are infringing on his freedom. And if you warn him or her of the dire consequence, he will resent it. But our Lord did not care how the people reacted to his preaching. What really mattered with Him was to state the truth without fear or favor.
“In that day they will say unto me, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And in your name cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
This is the payoff, the tragic end of those to whom anything and everything pertaining to God’s will is something foolish, something that may be all right for some, but foolish and unnecessary and impractical insofar as they are concerned.
In the period in which we live, events show that one thing is pre-eminent — that is need. In every nation in the world, everywhere we look in our own environment, we find need. Of one thing we are certain, adequate measures will be taken to meet need in the physical sense. But what is the answer to the deeper mental, moral and spiritual needs? The awaited answer must come from the church.
The church has the answer in life-giving message of good news. It can set the tempo for the age, for it has ever been on the march forward in a great cause. Christianity can answer the chaos of the present with its proclamation of a universe of moral law. It has a pattern for enduring leadership in the person of its own leader, Jesus Christ. It has the answer for frustration and bewilderment, for it has the power to resolve the tension between disillusionment and hope, escapism and realism, skepticism and faith.
Jesus concludes this sermon by stating that no person’s life can endure the strain, the stress and difficulties if it is not founded upon the truth revealed by Him. To build your life upon the shifting sands of false-isms, materialism, selfishness, pride and disrespect for the right and privileges of others is to see your dream house fall to pieces. You cannot build outside the will of God and expect a lasting happiness and contentment.
For a long time people who had lost their enthusiasm for living puzzled me. It made no difference what plans of action were suggested for regaining their enthusiasm. They seemed to greet them all with an equal lack of interest.
Then one day, I looked up the word “enthusiasm” in the dictionary. I discovered that a plan of action is not what a person needs in order to regain enthusiasm. He needs to take a cue from the original meaning of the word, “Enthusiasm” comes from two Greek words — “en” and “theos” meaning “in God”.
To be enthusiastic about life, then means to be in God or in Christ. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you … for without me ye can do nothing.” Paul said, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”