A RESPONSE TO GOD'S SILENCE
Without options, there can be no free will. Without free will, what are we? Automatons of a “loving God”? It is in His love and His wisdom that we are confounded by the paradox of our created-ness and our own free will by the seeming plethora of options and the variety of “rational” (i.e., logical), distinct and contradictory notions.
In addition, there is a moral component integrated with our spiritual development – this we cannot deny. So, how ever God’s mercy allows for shades of gray, especially in the context of the redemption of souls [as the thief on the cross who Christ brought to paradise without baptism], we must begin by taking responsibility for our own decisions before we begin any concern for everyone else. I was taught by an elder that “In Holy Orthodoxy, it is more important to be Christian [that is, of Christ] than to make sure everyone else is Christian.”
With all the difficulties that entails, it is true that some of the Saints have been called into the battlefield in defense of the Truth, but they were called to defend it within the context of believers. Heretics are those that have been members of the Sacred Body but have strayed significantly from the Truth that they have separated themselves from the apostolic teachings and the Church.
For non-believers and such, the martyrs are our examples, not the council fathers. “Martyr” earns “witness.” The early Second Century martyr and saint Justin is among the more articulate in apology of the faith to pagan [unbelieving] Rome. Justin Martyr used logic and reason as the basis of his “witness” – but he did not condemn the pagan rulers and does not mention their personal salvation.
In the Orthodox Church, we look to the sacrifice of the martyrs not claims of converting others; we remember the singing of Psalms as they died in gruesome ways. Most of the martyrs [and the stories of them] tell of loving responses to torture, but I do not recall any arguments being used by them at the time of their deaths. Even Justin died simply acknowledging his faith despite the consequence. It could be said that it appeared that God was silent then, couldn’t it?
Fundamentally, we are always at the crossroads in our own faith and redemption. Do we take every step connected to that Divine Source of all Truth? No, we are all sinners. Without Christ, no matter how many steps we take – we will be lost – even if we think we are following the steps of those great souls that have walked a while on this side of veil.
The Apostolic Constitutions [a first century document usually attached to the letters of St. Clement] begins with profound clarity:
So what kind of witness are we? If we do not have the eloquent words or the deep understanding of profound mystical theology, doesn’t God speak to others through our loving service as well? Doesn’t following the simple directions of Christ solve many of the matters of eternal importance: “Love God," "love your neighbor as yourselves” and “Others will know you are of me that you love one another”?
My experience working with non-believers is that, behind the façade of intellectual and emotional arguments, there is a need to know God’s love. So many are disappointed that God allowed something to happen or did not stop something from happening. They understand their own limitations [although often do not like to be limited] and believe that God would simply act as they would with the greater power at His disposal.
For others, even within the Church, they must have complete understanding driven by a need to be in control. It is scary not to “know” something. What I need to know to escape my home if there is a fire is very important. Shouldn’t there also be spiritual contingency plans already written for these dangerous times?
Indeed, it is scary to live in a world where I am not the only one with free will and where the impacts of others choices can threaten all of the mundane things of this life and of that life to come. These fears are oriented to the “way of death.” The “way of life” does the way of Holy Orthodoxy, the martyrs, supremely demonstrate the way of Jesus Christ?
For all the arguments and rationalities, God’s love is known only by His presence; the continuing revelation of His incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension; the ever vigilant light brought by His children of light. The Good News is that death has been defeated and that God’s love is ever victorious; sometimes even beyond our understanding. There may be no rational thought needed. There may be no response required God's silence
May we all be blessed with the knowing God’s love, may it fill our hearts to overflowing that everyone we encounter may know Him.
Lord, have mercy upon and save us from ourselves.
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