As I saw this title in my feed for Pravmir
this morning, I had a sense about it, and knew I had to read it right away. Please bear with my introductory remarks.
As I absorbed Fr Stephen's thoughts on scandal
, it took me back to one of the most scandalous things I had ever encountered in my life in the Orthodox Church. It was the day in the summer of 2008 that I opened up a thin booklet by an Orthodox priest and professor, written to be "a guide for Orthodox Christians encountering Muslims," and read this:
"Muslims and Christians worship the same God."
The shock of reading such a statement, written by an Orthodox Christian priest, one who celebrates the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, and who is charged with defending the Church and the Holies with his very life, left me reeling. It was a scandalon
— σκάνδαλα — as devastating and unbelievable as any I had encountered. And it started me on the path which would lead to me writing the book, Facing Islam
, and then launching this blog.
That scandal set me on this path to refute the lie that says the God of Islam is the True God, for that is what one is saying, when one makes the above assertion.
That scandal compelled me to bear witness to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, Second Person of the Holy Triune Godhead, who became man for our sake, to restore us to the Father, to our divine calling as children of God.
The irony of that initial scandal is that while I recall vividly the reaction it provoked within me, and the torrent of righteous fervor it unleashed, over the years since, I have come to see my inner reaction to the many scandals caused by Islam and those who defend it — especially those Orthodox Christians who are so confused in their theology, ecclesiology and their notion of love as to affirm Islam itself — to become progressively more pensive, pained, sorrowful, and less angry, defensive, polemical.
Christ calls us to love our enemies, to forgive seventy times seven. This means, in the most stark and challenging context, to love and forgive
the Muslim jihadist who is sawing our head off with a serrated knife. We have examples of Holy New Martyrs in our very day (and of their grieving families in the aftermath) doing exactly that.
But when one knows and is filled with the Truth, one cannot forgive the lie, only the liar. One cannot forgive the deception, only the deceived, the lost, precisely because "they know not what they do."
I have often quoted the words of Yuri Maximov (now Priest George) regarding the towering, prophetic example of New Priest-Martyr Daniil Sysoev of Moscow (†2009), and will do so again and again, for his words are perhaps the best summation of what my book, blog and mission are all about:
Among those who call themselves Orthodox, I have met such strange people who say that Fr. Daniel should not preach to Muslims, that one must respect their religion, and that there is no benefit from his preaching. But Fr. Daniel thought, as did the Lord, the Apostles, and all the saints, that one must respect mistaken people but not their mistakes. Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth. (Source)
Scandals must come, but it is often scandals which prove and test us, and most sharply delineate Truth from falsehood, Light from darkness, the True Way from the way to perdition.
Brothers and sisters, let us confess Jesus Christ and labor to be found in Him, that we may rejoice at His Coming, and not be ashamed. This is the True Faith. Amen.
Church Scandals Must Come
Scandals must come (Matt. 18:7).
|Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.|
These are the words of Christ. He tells us that scandals are not only likely to happen – but that they will happen. They are necessary (ἀνάγκη).
Most readers will marvel that this is a quote from Jesus. The reason is simple: the Greek (ἀνάγκη γάρ ἐστιν ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα) is rarely translated in such a manner. “Stumbling blocks,” or “offenses,” is the more common way to render the word skandala (σκάνδαλα). But the Greek has a very simple cognate in English: scandal.
Why would Christ tell his disciples that scandals must come? It is a description of the nature of things in this world. The entrance of the Kingdom of God and its dwelling among men is not such that men will cease to be broken or evil. Christ warned His disciples that he himself would be betrayed – not by strangers – but by one of them!