The Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians 6:16-7:1
The apostle Paul writes “Brethren, we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” When St. Paul speaks in this way of a God living and moving among His people we might think that is strange. How can a God who seems so far away, who is so great and powerful, actually be with us?
This is a reference to the Holy Spirit. We receive this Holy Spirit in baptism and chrismation (which is a symbol and type of the laying of hands often seen in Acts). The Holy Spirit is with us but for the most part His presence is unnoticed. Some of the Church fathers speak of the Holy Spirit being energized or revealed to us as we live holy lives, obeying the commandments and taking care of those in need. The Holy Spirit is able to really work powerfully where people have sanctified and dedicated themselves to the service of God. This is reflected in St. Paul’s next statement, “Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them,” says the Lord.” This idea of separation is among the most difficult for us as modern Christians. We live in one of the most mixed societies in history. Instead of one clan and one ethnicity and one dominating ideology we see many examples of diversity.
The United States is a great melting pot and that is a wonderful thing. We love to see diversity because such diversity comes from God. When we see a church full of people from different places who speak different languages that is truly a miraculous thing. It shows the universality of the Christian faith. However there is a certain type of diversity that is not permitted to us as Christians and that is the diversity of religion or religious beliefs.
How do Christians deal with diversity in religion? Do we call for a crusade and wipe out the other religions? Do we force non-Christians to pay a tax unless they convert? Do we mistreat those who do not follow our way? Not at all. There are many religions that act this way. There are even Christians who act this way. But make no mistake, this is not the way of Christ or His apostles. There are exactly ZERO examples of that type of behavior by the Lord or the apostles anywhere in the New Testament.
We deal with a society of different religions by carefully guarding our hearts and minds and our social boundaries. For example, when kids go to school we tell them to be careful who they associate with because we strongly believe that bad company corrupts good morals. That is biblical. So we as Christians in our society have to be careful how much we fall into the practices and behaviors of a watered down Christian society because inevitable it will make us watered down. And make no mistake, we are all quite watered down already.
One of the things that is often taught in schools is that all religions are equal. I have my truth and you can also have your truth. It is our duty as parents and teachers to show our kids that this is false teaching. If you were really sick and I offered you cotton candy instead of real medicine what would happen? You would get something sweet and delicious but at the end of the day we would find that it had not helped you at all. In fact if time was a critical factor you might find that you never got better because you took the wrong treatment. The physician however, will offer you medicine that might be bitter to the taste but actually offers healing for your sickness. As Christians we don’t believe that lots of ways get to God or that lots of ways offer healing to the soul sickened through sin.
All religions are not equal. All people are equal. All people are made in the image of God. All people are worthy of dignity. But all religions cannot be equal. Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through me.” So how do we become great members of our communities without losing our faith? We want to work and play sports and mingle with others and that is fine. But let’s do so while we guard our hearts. Part of the method for guarding our hearts is to guard our time. As an example let’s use Sunday sports.
The very act of having sports scheduled on Sunday morning is already against our Christian faith as this is the Lord’s day, the day that we always and forever remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Now we have children who miss a couple of Sundays a month with activities. I wonder what you think will happen when those kids raise their own children? Do you think they’ll be active Christians? I wouldn’t bet on it. And where did we learn such behavior? Did we learn it through sound biblical wisdom and tradition? Not at all.
The same holds true for the American concept of dating. If we Christians are doing what the world around us is doing it means that we are more a part of the world than a part of God’s people. If we are in love with the world around us then we have a problem because we were created to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. In that case we’ve failed to do what God commanded us: “come out from them, and be separate from them.”
Those words are meant to be a guide for us. They are meant to protect us as a holy people. When the people of Israel mingled with the idol worshipers guess what happened over time? The Israelites became idol worshipers!
Our goal is to really be the people of God. Not in word our in appearance, but in our hearts and minds. When this happens we will hear the Lord speaking these lovely words to us “I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.” I can’t think of anything that would be better.
And glory be to God forever AMEN.