Hope – “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” The grace of God is obviously not limited to those who have taken the Orthodox way of Chrismation, Baptism and the Eucharist. The thief on the cross experienced none of these and yet Christ made this statement to him. Christ looks on the heart. I suspect there are many hearts outside of Orthodoxy that belong to Christ. He is a God of mercy and grace and He loves mankind. I believe that “He will keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”
Father Timothy said there is disagreement within Orthodoxy on some of the issues. They seem to be pretty laid back on many things, but strict on others. I hope as I become more familiar with Orthodoxy that I can discern which ones are which.
Human nature is the same across the board in whatever church one belongs, and it takes a miracle to change human nature. I am grateful to have observed the change that God can make in a person’s life. I saw it in my mother first of all. She was not perfect, but instead of displaying bitterness and hate which she had many reasons to do so, instead, I remember hearing the sound of her voice praying in her room. I knew that is how she survived. I had great reason to follow her example many years later.
I see the difference in my thinking of my children when they choose the way of darkness over the way of light; the way of Christ over the way of self. I see the struggle in them, and I hope I can always say of them, “at least they struggle.”
I see the wisdom of those in my life who have followed God and the difference they have made in the lives of others. I know there is light in some, and darkness in others. Some despair. Some have hope. Some live by the dictates of self. Some live by the dictates of God. And it is obvious. There is also a difference between those that are good, and those who are good because of the light of God in their lives. The difference is the reason, the motive, their philosophy of life. The light of God shines from their eyes. They are happy, and they have peace.
One of the greatest disappointments I encountered as a teenager, was finding out that there were those in the church who did not truly follow Christ. I define it as “the end of childhood.” It is a transition that is more severe for some than for others. However, one of the greatest joys I encountered as a teenager was finding out that there were those in the church who truly loved Christ and showed this by loving others. For instance, I was the oldest of 6 children, and we did not have much money, to say the least. There were a couple of women from church who would take me shopping for shoes, or invite me along to see a play; take time out of their day to notice me and take an interest in me. How great was the difference I saw back then between those who loved Christ by loving “the least of these,” and those who were more interested in image.
I believe with all my heart that there are those in other denominations who have been regenerated by the life of Christ within them. God meets us where we are. He met the thief on the cross while He was on the Cross, so He meets us in our pain, our place of misery and aloneness, because He has suffered as a man and sees fit to lift us up to dwell in Him.
What in the world would I have done as a child, with all I went through, had I not known Him?
So I am comforted.
“I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”