Sermon: "Fight the inner passions inside you, but love the world that hates you."
Sunday, Sept. 3rd on the Epistle of St Paul - 1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
I do not think of myself as an alarmist, but according to scholars, we live in a post-Christian world. This means that Christianity is no longer the main religion in the world, as more and more people become secular.
As the society is moving away from Christianity, it is also becoming anti-Christian and hostile towards Christianity. The truths of the Gospel, the truth of Christ, the very reality of Christ scares this post-Christian society because the Gospel does not conform to some of the movements that we witness today, be it sexual revolution, gay-union revolution, transgender movement, divorce and destruction of marriage and family revolution, and the genocide of the innocents, commonly known as the abortion.
Judging by how swiftly these movements have overtaken our society, it’s not an overreaction to say that being a Christian is not popular today, and soon, maybe in the next 15-20 years it might even be dangerous to be one.
But this is nothing new. Christ was persecuted, the apostles and the first Christian communities were persecuted. Even when Christianity was legalized and became the main religion of the Roman Empire, still there were times when Christians were oppressed.
Fast-forward to our times, 20th century saw some of the worst persecutions ever! And tooday, in Egypt, Syria, Middle East, Europe, and other parts of the world, people are killed simply for being Christian.
What do we do in light of all of this? Do we run away scared with our tail between our legs? Do we head for the woods? Do we reject Christ in the face of this new anti-Christian movement? It’s hard to answer now, when there is still some security and freedom to worship.
Today we heard from the letter St Paul wrote to a Christian community he established in a Greek city of Corinth. Corinthians had their problems with renouncing paganism and embracing the true faith in Christ. There were many outer pressures in the society working against them, forcing them to turn away from the new-found faith.
Knowing the hardships that the Christians of Corinth endured, St Paul writes to them encouraging them to “keep alert, be vigilant, stand firm in faith, be courageous, and be strong.” These are not just some nice words. St Paul does not just say them for the sake of saying them, something like, “You deal with your own problems, but I am thinking of you...while I am somewhere else.”
These words are commands, commands given to a soldier. No, St Paul is not calling them to fight, at the very least, he’s not calling them to fight other people. But Christians are warriors, we are warriors of Christ. And we are called to fight all evil in the world in the Name of Christ. We are called to fight passions, we are called to fight our own temptations.
We combat the dangers from outside by fighting the inner things of our heart, things that separate us from God, things that cloud our judgment, things that are usually called sin. In order to withstand all the revolutions and movements of our post-Christian society, we focus on changing ourselves, not the society. We can’t change what the world believes, but we can stand firm in faith and be strong.
When dealing with the outside world, St Paul says, “Let all that you do be done in love.” Fight the inner passions inside you, but love the world that hates you. This is basically the summary of Christian life.
Love is infinitely diverse, but from a Christian perspective love is revealed, most of all, in our sacrificial service to each other. The fruits of our love are acts of charity and hospitality.
At the time of the first Christians, at the time when St Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, the Christians were winning over the society with love, by taking care of everyone who needed help. This seems to be a simple act, but at a time when Jews only took care of the Jews, different pagans took care only of their own, what Christians did was shocking and surprising.
Christians were able to support each other and went out and took care of the “outsiders.” They fed and clothed them, gave them material and emotional support, they treated them as equal human beings. Like I said, this was unusual at the time, and this showed to these outsiders that Christianity wasn’t just something new or better, but that Christianity was the only way, the true way.
As our society is drifting away from Christ, there is only one path for us – go back to our roots and exercise the love of Christ that won over the world. Unfortunately, we ourselves have lost this love and desire to serve. We have way more resources than the early Christians, but we do way less than they. We have more ways to help our greater community, but we are less interested in it.
Christian life is not about surviving the bad times, Christ has already taken care of that by destroying death and opening the doors of salvation to us. Christian life is about doing Christ’s work – serving each other in love.
Be vigilant, courageous, strong, and stand firm in faith, and let all that we do be done love.
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