Word Magazine June 1992 Page 20-21


By Archpriest Constantine Nasr

“For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Romans 10:11-13).

This wonderful promise announced by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:32), declared by Peter and proclaimed by Paul, is not an event that “happened” somewhere in the dim past; not a mere piece of historical “information’’ to be neatly filed under ‘‘Fulfilled Prophecy’’ and left to gather dust in a religious museum. It is a living promise that continues to be fulfilled daily in the life of the Church. In this article, I want to share with you some of the ways in which we have witnessed the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the faithful, in the hope that by the grace of God they will be saved.

While I was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I heard so much about the ‘‘Bible Belt.’’ I assumed that meant that the people here were more spiritually motivated, more deeply committed to the Word of God. I found it a pleasant prospect to move to the South if the opportunity arose and live among people who live and abide by the teachings of the Bible. Of course, this is in no way a reflection upon my previous parish in Iowa. To my surprise, I was transferred to Oklahoma City in 1982.

But what I had imagined did not agree with what I in fact found. Indeed, I saw people on the street corners shouting hell-fire-and-damnation, demanding of all who passed by, “Have you been saved?’’ I saw the same thing in the “media church” where preachers of all denominations all had their own “ministry.”

At first, I was excited by the enthusiasm and zealousness of their preaching. But then I read that the State of Oklahoma, the ‘‘Buckle of the Bible Belt,’’ ranks fifth in the nation in crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, incest, divorce, armed robbery and other violent crimes, I was shocked! How could this be in the Bible Belt where people are supposedly living according to the Bible’s teaching? But then I remembered the words of our Lord in St. Matthew 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord,’’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them. ‘‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.”

You see, Jesus shows us that what all those street corner preachers shouted at us was not true: it is not enough just to ‘‘call on the name of’ the Lord. Just ‘‘Bible thumping’’ is not preaching, and religion does not consist in reciting the number of Scriptures you have memorized. To truly call upon the name of the Lord requires submission and obedience in faith, in words and in deeds. Yes, Romans 10:13 states, “All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered, but this involves more than merely uttering the words. ‘‘Lord, I believe. One must demonstrate his faith in Christ in his entire life, he must reflect Christ not only on Sunday but every moment of every day.

A few years ago I was entering a restaurant with a parishioner when a man carrying a Bible shouted at me, “Hey, preacher, are you saved?” I was stunned and said, ‘‘Why are you asking me that question?” He replied. ‘‘If you don’t know you’re saved, you should not be a preacher.” So I asked him, “Are you saved?” and he said, “Yes. On November 3, 1972, my life changed. I called on the name of the Lord and now I know I am saved.’’ I said, ‘‘I am glad you are saved. But let me tell you that for myself I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. I was saved from original sin through baptism, chrismation and Holy Communion; I am being saved as long as I live and abide by the teaching of God in His Church; and I hope that by the grace and mercy of God I will be saved eternally.”

As we were conversing, the owner of the restaurant took me aside and said, ‘‘Don’t pay any attention to that fanatic. His life is full of misery. He has been married three times, and he has a woman waiting for him outside. I went back to the man and said to him, ‘‘I want to explain one thing. Listen to me. If you wanted to go to California, what would you do first?’’ He said, “I would plan the trip, make sure the car was safe and sound, get my business in order, and then I would take off.” I said, ‘‘If you took 1-40 West and started driving, would you already be in California? What could happen to you on the way? Maybe you would even change your mind and not go.”

And we attain our salvation in the same way. We don’t know for certain that we are saved just by saying we believe in the Lord. Salvation is a lifelong journey, for in John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Beloved, for every soul salvation is a lifelong journey of abiding in Christ; and this journey is full of challenges. It requires faith and perseverance, even against all odds, like Job and Stephen, never giving up hope or surrendering to the temptations of the world. Remember that the sin of Judas and Demas was being in love with this present world. There is great confusion, despondency and skepticism among Christians today. More and more are leaving the Church. Today sixty to seventy percent of the people who once belonged to a church are un-churched. The Church is suffering persecution from without and division from within. Heresies and schisms, sexual promiscuity and immorality are constantly increasing. As Orthodox Christians, we have a great challenge to live in the likeness of Christ. We have a great opportunity to share in the richly rewarding experience of living that faith which was “once for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3).

There are many people out there who as genuine Christians are confused and lost, who desire to call upon the name of the Lord, but do not know how. We must show these people the way by living the Faith, bringing them to our churches, by making them part of our Christian family; by being kind and gentle, by embracing one another in love, as the Troparion of Easter states. God did not come, nor did the Father send the Holy Spirit exclusively to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, or to the Greeks, or to us. God in the Holy Trinity died for all to bring all to him once again.

In conclusion, let me quote from William Stidger:

Good news, Old world, good news!

The river and the wind refuse to keep the matter still.

There’s gossip on the hill.

Let our Orthodox Faith be the good news to a world grown old in sin. Let our Faith be the gossip on every corner.

Father Constantine is pastor of St. Elijah Church in Oklahoma City, OK, and Dean of his region for the Archdiocese.