In our time, there is no open opposition to faith, but many are at risk of abandoning God in favour of the worldly comforts and riches. There is a chance for us to become God’s enemies by being indifferent and neglectful. By becoming one with this world, we may lose sight of the meaning and the ultimate goal of our lives.
In the Holy Scripture, we read about the region of Gerasenes. Presumably, the people in this land were leading prosperous lives and were keeping a lot of swine. Perhaps they had a lot of affordable meat, and everyone was well fed. So when Christ came to that land, only one wretched man came out to meet Him because he needed Him. Everyone else did not. Eventually, they told him something like this: “Why don’t you go someplace else, the further the better; your visit is becoming too costly for us - look at the fine herd of excellent swine that you have just drowned. What a terrible waste of meat! What else might you be up to, and what will it cost us?”
Does not the land of Gerasenes resemble the modern secular world? A world that is not interested in Christ, but aspires to technological progress, better standards of living, an advanced economy, accessible and affordable commodities, and satisfied consumers? Why would anyone need Jesus Christ? Just imagine: Jesus Christ died on the cross in this world, but nobody seems to need Him here!
Let me give you an example from my life. I have a good acquaintance, a very intelligent person. Once, as I was telling him about my conversion to Christ he remarked: “What you are saying must be true, but I do not need Jesus Christ right now. I am happy with my life, and things are working out for me quite well. I might lose it all if I went to Church and began to live with Christ”. He expressed it very well: If he accepted Christ, what would happen to himself, his outward prosperity, his worldly status and privilege? He would lose it all. No wonder we have so much fear of giving up our whole lives to Christ. We might agree to give up a small part, but leave the rest to ourselves. “It is my life, after all,” we would say. Indeed, this is the way most people think nowadays.
What would happen in the world if we all decided today that we need nothing but Christ if we repeated in all sincerity the biblical verse “Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life” (Psalms 142:8), and followed Jesus Christ to His Golgotha? This would shake the foundations of this world. Are we prepared to say this to the Lord? Most likely not.
Eventually, however, we will all have to make our choice. What would it take for us to need Christ? Would we have to be reduced to the position of the man who was possessed by a demon and living in the tombs, the only person in his land who needed Him? Here is an example from our times. Someone is living a comfortable and prosperous life, when he is suddenly told by the doctors that he has advanced cancer and has less than a month to live. He is shocked. And what's next? It is only at this moment that he discovers that he needs Christ. Why? Because nobody else needs him, because there is so little time left for him in this world, and because he still hopes that Christ might help him recover and stay alive. Do you realise the kind of attitude that we have towards God? As the Russian saying goes, unless the thunder is roaring, the peasant will not cross himself. While the thunder is not roaring, we feel that we can continue our business, as usual, increasing our wealth, improving our physical form and engaging in otherworldly exploits. Following Christ? Sorry, we are not interested.
We do not know what will happen tomorrow, but there is no way for the faithful to avoid making their choice. Honestly, the more I look at what is happening now, the more terrified I am about the future. I do wish to see the future differently, hopeful that God will not abandon us and that He wishes all of us to become His warriors fighting a victorious battle for our souls and for the souls of our loved ones, fighting to defeat the world that lies in evil.
Today, psychotherapy is back in fashion. People are going to see their psychologists and psychotherapists, Orthodox or non-Orthodox. The terrible thing is that, in doing so, we forget the importance of addressing Christ. Do we still need Him? The battlefield does not lie in the realm of philosophy or psychology; it lies in the spiritual realm. The devil is standing behind our backs, and we are still placing our vain hopes in psychology. Everything that we need can be found in Christ - including psychology. Saint Augustin Aurelius wrote: “Love God and do your own will”. But we, the enlightened public of our time, are saying: “We need other instruments with which we can fix our lives”. To this, the Lord responds: “Repent, for the Kindom of God has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
What would it take to encounter Christ in this world? Getting in the shoes of that wretched possessed man, perhaps? However, whether that man was, in fact, wretched is a big question, and the answer depends on individual judgement. In my view, he was the most fortunate man in the whole land of Gerasenes, because he had met Christ, and Christ had healed him. Do you honestly think that the rest of the inhabitants of that land were any less possessed than he? Perhaps they were in an even worse state. But, the devil was not attacking them because he had full control over them; they were living and acting exactly as he was commanding them. They did not need Christ. Today, it is very much the same situation. We do not know the good from the bad. We are totally confused. In our present state, we are too afraid of coming to Christ because He may break the routines that are dear to us: the worldly comfort, the high position, or our relationships. We might have these things taken away from us because they will not bring salvation to our immortal souls.
Therefore, we will not be following Christ as a large group. The way of Christ is a very narrow path. It is a path that everyone is treading with fear. We pray to God that we all have the power to follow it to the end, to resist the temptation and deception of the world. There is a battle being waged on all fronts. Some of the enemies are overt, others are hidden and do not even look like enemies at all. We must all stand firm and uphold the tenets of the Orthodox faith, and follow our traditions and teachings of the Holy Fathers; herein lies the path to salvation for ourselves and our loved ones.
May God save and protect us all!
The Apostle Peter had been fishing all night and had not caught anything. However, when the Saviour told him to cast the net again, he obeyed, and he pulled out more fish than he could carry. Such is our life: we do something, we sweat, we are…