Who do you say I am?
By Fr. Evan Maximiuk
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I am angry. I know I shouldn't be, I know this is a time to work on being a better person, to deal with my weaknesses, to ask God for forgiveness and I do ask God to forgive me, but I am angry.
I was picking up my veggie chicken nuggets at Safeway on this past Monday. While in the checkout aisle I was looking at the magazine rack to find out the latest on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, are they getting married or not, how Britney is doing, you know important stuff. And I saw the MacLean's magazine (March 31st/2008) and on the cover there was this big picture of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the caption underneath it said, "Jesus has an identity crisis". Scholars are casting new doubt on the divinity of Christ – and even wondering if the church would be better off without Him. And in brackets underneath this big caption were two words, Happy Easter.
I am angry. The article focuses on what is a blatant attack by those that profess to be Christians, on the very divinity, of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It focuses on what is termed liberal churches and their crisis of faith, that they can no longer accept the Bible as the word of God. For Orthodox Christians, the "Bible is the greatest source of truth, virtue and moral ethics. It is invaluable as a source of teaching, doctrine and holiness." But some how, in these liberal churches, full of much smarter people than you or I, or so it seems, accepting the Bible as the word of God is wrong, stupid even.
Holy Scripture is our letter from God. Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk wrote, "If an earthly king, our emperor wrote you a letter, would you not read it with joy? …You have been sent a letter, not by any earthly emperor, but by the King of Heaven." For Orthodox Christians, Holy Scripture constitutes a coherent whole. They are at once divinely inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God's revelation of Himself in creation, in the Incarnation of the Word, and in the whole history of salvation, and as such express the word of God in human language. We know, receive, and interpret Holy Scripture through the Church and in the Church.
See, what makes me angry, what frustrates me is when the so-called experts attack and try to destroy my Lord and Saviour, and make no mistake, their attempts at growing in their own faith, this liberal Christianity does attack my Lord and Saviour.
They make statements like, "Jesus's moral teaching is not outstanding and it's impossible to craft a moral high ground from his life, works and sayings: "His words are dead to many people. The world has changed. The words don't make sense anymore." So what they say is that Jesus is out of date, that His words are empty and that they cannot have any affect on people. Really. Let me get this straight. Our Lord and Saviour, who preached love, forgiveness, patience, peace, obedience, and these words have no value in our society? I am angry.
They go on to say, "Why do we need a ‘revolutionary' voice from two millennia ago to guide us? We have fabulous ideas of our own, that are constantly weakened by having to tie them back to Jesus and Scripture."
Really? The reason we need a revolutionary voice from two millennia ago is because we still haven't gotten it right. What are our fabulous ideas? Abortion is okay because the life that is created in the mother's womb is not really alive. Destroying our planet for our own selfish needs is okay. Keeping our mouths shut because we don't want to offend anyone due to political correctness, because we live in a society that tries to accommodate, instead of standing up and speaking out for the truth. These are our fabulous ideas?
The experts, the liberal Christians, attack our fundamental belief systems. They attack the very core of our faith. They state that they can call themselves Christian's because their Christianity is more a way of acting than a way of belief. I am here to tell you, acting like a Christian does not make you a Christian.
Our Holy Orthodox Faith is based on the answer to the question that our Lord and Saviour asks of his followers, "Whom do men say that I am? So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, "But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:13-16
Who do you say I am is the question that each and every one of us is faced with because this is the question that defines Christianity. This statement by Simon Peter that Christ is the only Son of the living God excludes all compromise with other religious systems. And if a Christian church professes something different than that, they are no longer a Christian church. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth and I will not apologize for it. Because to apologize for it would mean that I accept the words written in this article, that Jesus has an identity crisis, that Jesus is no longer relevant, that we have progressed past what He taught, that you can be a Christian and not believe in Christ. And that is not true.
I am angry. I know I shouldn't be, but I am. The experts, in these so called Christian churches, don't believe he said one fifth of the things that are attributed to Him, don't believe in His miracles and still, still have the audacity to call themselves Christians.
There are those who will say that the miraculous birth of our Lord and Saviour did not really happen and still call themselves Christians. They will deny His divinity and still call themselves Christians. They will deny that our Holy Communion, is His precious Body and Blood and still call themselves Christians. They will deny His Death and Glorious Resurrection and claim to be Christians. They will deny that my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is just that, my Lord and Saviour! They deny He is our hope and salvation because He is not "relevant" anymore and still claim to be Christians, and for that, I am angry. And I will respond to their unbelief by not raging against them, but by speaking the truth and by praying for them.
Jesus Christ has an identity problem? No, He doesn't. We do. We have the problem. We chose not to get to know our Lord and Saviour. Christ is an acquaintance. What these liberal Christians profess and believe is a cop out. It is pride at its worst. It is self-elevation at its worst. Jesus Christ is not relevant? Jesus Christ does not "fit" today's world? The only reason that might be true is because we, as Christians, have chosen not to make Him relevant. The irony is that we are relevant to Christ. The irony is, Christ knows who we are, and there is no identity crisis for Christ when it comes to us.
Who do you say that I am? That question is answered on Easter morning, on Holy Pascha morning. There is no doubt of who Christ is. There is no doubt about whether or not Christ is still relevant. There is no doubt about what we profess is true or not.
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, raised from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.