Saturday, February 2, 2008

On Speaking the Truth in Love

I recently read a post by an Orthodox blogger who listed someone's "15 reasons not to believe in a literal virgin birth." The blogger posted these 15 reasons with the invitation for those who do not agree with them to "Debunk. Enjoy." It seemed that this blogger was waiting for a feeding frenzy of sorts from like-minded readers.

I admit that I was incredibly put off simply by the tone of the post.

Enjoy? Enjoy publicly taking apart another person's beliefs? What is enjoyable about that?

I don't know. Maybe I'm a downright shoddy and wimpy Orthodox Christian. Maybe I don't deserve to be in the church. But for me the bottom line is, I don't want to fight and argue with anyone about church. Not those I love in my former tradition, not atheists, not other Orthodox Christians who have the need and the tools and the desire to debate essence and energy or the various doctrines of sanctification and deification. In particular, I don't want to fight with any non-Orthodox Christians about the errors of their beliefs (even if I believe they are errors), proving via scripture, etc. how they are oh-so-wrong and I am oh-so-right. I don't think that making a point of trying to debunk anyone's beliefs - especially publicly - is any sort of way to love my neighbor as myself.

I voiced my concerns about the divisive tone of the post in the blogger's combox, and was told that all Orthodox Christians are called to "defend the faith."

Really? Hmmm - no one told me that before chrismation. In fact, no well-meaning Orthodox Christian ever sat me down (while I was still a Lutheran) and gave me a blow-by-blow debunking of the doctrines of the Lutheran faith, either (even though some of those doctrines aren't held by the Orthodox). I knew several Orthodox Christians before I became one myself. Heck, I had been married to one for a dozen years before I converted. In all of those years, not once did any of them make it a point to take me aside and methodically dismantle my beliefs. Not my priest, not my sponsor, not my husband, and not any other Orthodox Christian. No one gave me any sort of a list of "why my church is better and truer than yours is."

What they did do, however, was welcome me to worship with them, and welcome dialogue with them about the Orthodox faith. They listened to my questions and answered them honestly. Not in a spirit of "why you are a heretic and I am a part of the True Church" - but compassionately and lovingly. They helped me to learn about the faith not by attacking mine, but by simply sharing theirs. And through their loving and faithful witness, and by the grace of God, this extremely stubborn, former-die-hard Lutheran became an Orthodox Christian.

So should we speak the truth? Certainly we should. But that is not all of this mandate. We are to speak the truth in love.

I was lucky, I guess, that the Orthodox Christians who spoke the truth to me, spoke it in love.

And that has made all the difference.


Mimi said...

I'm not in it to fight anything but my own sinfulness and failings, I agree.

Dwight P. said...

I think the person whom you cite has the same notion of "defense" as do vigilantes. I don't think that was Jesus' way.


Poem Master 3000 said...

A clever post-you ended up defending the faith without being offensive. This post brought more joy to me than thousands (millions?) of EP posts ever could.

-C said...

Thanks, Matt.

What's an EP post?

Poem Master 3000 said...

An EP post is a long winded, cranky, provocative "defense of the faith" such as can be found on the Energetic Procession blog.

-C said...

Yes, I've read the EP blog and I think they are good folks - very bright it seems. But their writings, and also the writings of a few other Orthodox intellectuals, leave me with little more than a headache most of the time. So I don't visit much.

Maybe I'm just getting old or something, but it seems for me that what stimulates my intellect seldom stimulates my heart.