Word Magazine October 1968 Page 13-14
TO THE CHRISTIANS OF MY COUNTRY
By The Very Rev. Father George Khodre, Tripoli, Lebanon
You are called to a great mission, you are a force of salvation, because of the One who gave you His name and in whose name you have been baptized. But you are wrong if you think that without Him you have any meaning at all. You also wrongly believe that others cannot participate in the being, as if names held a certain power in themselves, or as if Christ could not give to whom He pleases the “baptism of God,” with or without water. It is true that everything comes from the Saviour you adore: truth, purity, greatness, ideals. And no good appears in the world which does not witness directly or indirectly to the action of Christ. But the Saviour acts where He pleases; you cannot limit Him. He promised that He would shower you with His Grace, but He never said that you would be the only ones so privileged. You must not be more royalist than your King, He who can make children of Abraham from the stones of the road.
You are not the purpose of the world. The world has not been created to serve you, but you have been created to serve it; and the servant is attentive to the will of his master, and he turns his master’s plans into realities. All thoughts of dominion is foreign to your faith! Such thought changes in you into desire to serve. Each highly placed person, among you, has received the legitimacy of his power as a gift, and if this becomes a pleasure in itself, the principle of authority dies away, before the actual authority itself. Neither the Saviour in whom you believe, nor the ones over whom you have authority will accept such authority if it is not based on service. In any case, this superiority of your civilization which in the olden days justified your authority, is now a myth or will shortly become one. Science is not your specialty. Knowledge, in its outlooks on goodness, refinement, taste and sensibility is equally shared among men. And if civilization is in a great measure linked with woman, in as much as she represents inspiration, education, and half of the world population, then the non-Christian woman shares as well as the Christian one in all the gifts of nature. (In Lebanon, the non-Christian women are even surpassing the others at the universities). Nothing does Christ hold most dear, because He is universal and does not belong to anybody in particular. Because He helps everybody, even as He did help during His earthly ministry people who did not believe in God. The progress of members of other religions gives Him as much pleasure as the one of His own disciples. He is the Saviour of the world and not of his adepts only. And in His saving work He uses means He judges good, like culture, technique, rightful social fights. Why then do we not rejoice with Him in the success of others?
I will even go further, and say that the Lord is in contact with the outbursts, be they moral, artistic or scientific, which occur in the world, and that these outbursts are a manifestation of His presence in the universe. Such is the stand of the Christian thought today. Contemporary Christianity is beginning to realize that God’s presence is not found only in modesty, sweetness and charity. Because, if God is universal charity, He still has to choose means to enact it. Personal spiritual life, with all it contains of inspiration and transforming energy, does not use up all the spiritual activity in this world. It is true that the world progresses through holiness, and holiness had only one face when the world was small and its problems were simple and narrow. But with the growing complexity of things, with the world becoming more united and developed in its population, size and power, holiness has had to change form, to become an objective, technical way of dealing with the problems facing man. Creation is, today, a step towards the raising of man, and towards his supremacy; it is the implicit presence of Christ in the world. The day will come when Christ will reveal himself, but this hidden form of His presence is necessary. Because of the love they owe the world, God’s disciples must participate in the development and the thorough transformation of this world. And this love can no longer take place on an individual level; it takes place nowadays on the level of the social, historical act.
Christians must achieve the transformation of the world with the help of others, for the good of all. Such a transformation cannot any longer concern one group only, or one country, whatever its power. The gift cannot be one-sided any more; it is an exchange, participation, because any gift from a powerful one to one of an inferior civilization leads to the powerful one subduing the weak one, conditioning his integration, and finally ends in a policy of supremacy. The believer gives generously, but he also receives with the same simplicity, the same modesty. And if such is the contemporary Christian vision, it means that you, Christians, must try to be, everywhere, in a state of gift, of welcome; that is to say in a position of participation. In a state of gift, because Christ has given you much. In a state of welcome, not for enjoyment or pleasure, but because of a grace that God gives us through others.
In this way our country can contribute, at world level, to the idea of participation that the big powers have not yet discovered. It happens quite frequently that smaller nations awaken big ones, but what is more important still is for you to understand that the real life means forgetting oneself, and that by coming in real contact with others, a person finds such a life. Up to now you have not yet met “the other” in Christ. You have looked at his ugliness, and each being, because of his transformation and his weakness is inclined to pettiness, trickery, and selfishness. But the ugliness of the created being does not erase from his face the stamp of the creator. Every single person is Christ, because of his vocation, of the gifts God gave him, and of his links with the infinite, and it is in this light that you must look at him; in so doing you will bring forth in him the divine person that he is called to become. Otherwise, and this is very serious, you are strangers to Christ, you are nothing. Why then try to impose your superiority and ask of others that they acknowledge it? If the presence of Christ is love, and if you do not have love, you have no right in the edification of the country and your collaboration stands for nothing in the future of humanity. It is from love that you receive your meaning. Without love you are nothing. Without it, you go back to primitive barbarism.
Essentially, you are seeds called to die in order that others might live; you hold the secret of life because somebody taught you how to accept death. And your success might be entirely in this giving up of yourselves, in this perpetual impulse which pushes back the frontiers of the Church to the dimensions of your sacrifice. Your specific function is precisely that you should not try to determine it. What makes up your being is that you do not attempt to define yourselves. And you will be protected only in so far as you will not be looking for protection. On the contrary, you must join in the fray; engage yourselves in the middle of things. You alone cannot be kings, because “those considered as heads of nations order as masters, and the powerful ones make them feel their power,” and you, you are not from this world. And your pride comes from this, that you stop having an active spiritual presence when you become powerful according to this world’s logic, and honorable according to the common sense. Because: “What is in the world is without birth, and what is despised God has chosen; what is not, to reduce to nothing what is.”