The Essence of Christianity

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. (continue from last Sunday.)

Certainly, no one wishes to be condemned to hell. Everyone wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is crucial to understand, however, that the Kingdom of Heaven is not so much a place as a state. When the scribes asked when the Kingdom of Heaven would be revealed, Christ answered: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here!, or Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20). Saying so, the Lord showed that salvation is intimately connected with a man’s interior state. Salvation is not simply a move from the present conditions of life to different and better conditions; it is something more profound and wonderful. As Scripture says, "If favour is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the Lord" (Isa. 26: 10, RSV). In other words, even when his exterior conditions improve, the wicked man continues to be envious, hateful, and quarrelsome, for he is tormented by a thirst for sensual pleasures; thus, he bears hell in himself. True joy, peace, and blessedness are inner states that come to a man as a result of a relationship with God, which the unrepentant refuse and do not share in. The righteous man, no matter where he is, will always have the delight of communion with God, bearing paradise within himself.

It is very important to understand that the chief purpose of Christ's coming was not to give us living conditions that are better externally, but to restore the lost paradise within us. With this truth one holds the key to understanding Christianity. One will also be able to see for himself how Orthodoxy is superior to other faiths; for everything that the Orthodox Church holds and teaches is directed towards one end: union with God through moral renewal and deification. In the present work, we shall show that the source of all the errors of heterodox churches is a formal and utilitarian concept of salvation, one separated from the struggle of inner renewal. The Lord is all-powerful; He can create whole worlds by His word alone —but He cannot save us without our active participation. Good and evil are states chosen by our own free will. You can give a student the most costly and up-to-date tools for learning, as well as the best teachers, but no one can give him knowledge and experience. He must force himself to study. Something similar takes place with many Christians. Despite the abundance of the means of grace offered to them, they do not grow spiritually. Not only do they show no growth, some even dare to alter the teachings of Christ to conform to their own laziness. Since most people prefer the path of least resistance, the doctrines of those who would "simplify" Christianity enjoy much visible success.

Foreseeing these things, the Lord taught believers not to be troubled by being a "little flock" that walks the narrow path, because it is the difficult path of spiritual renewal that leads to eternal life. (to be continue next Sunday).