Thursday, February 21, 2013
Being an Authentic Christian Means Failing
Yesterday, I spoke with a friend of mine who is Calvinist who has been "barred from the table" (meaning, not allowed to partake in the Lord's Supper according to the Reformed understanding of it) due to his personal struggles with sin. As a Catholic, I can understand this, as when we have mortally sinned, we do not (or at least, we are not supposed to) receive Holy Communion. This friend of mine mentioned that his being barred from the table, as it were, has given him time to reflect and to think on his relationship with Christ. I can understand this too.
The life of a Christian is an utter paradox to me, but this also is the only key to understanding it. We are told by Christ to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, and yet we all fall short of the glory of God. So how is it we live the Christian life? By grace.
St. Justin Popovic, an Eastern Orthodox saint, writes: "If a man fights with sins and passions, this demonstrates that he indeed believes in the Risen Lord; if he fights with them, he fights for life eternal."1
This is the sign of the Christian - the struggle, the fight, the carrying of the cross, and most importantly, the losing of that fight sometimes - each time we fall, if we rise again through the strength of Christ and His Cross, we show ourselves to be authentic, to be true to the calling of the Christian.
Nowhere in Scripture do we find the promise of ease, nowhere do we find that the life of a Christian is one of serenity and continual peace, but one of battle. If one is coasting along in their life as a Christian without any problem or issue, then I would begin to worry - it is a sign that the Cross is not present. Surely, yes, there are blessings and sweetnesses and graces. But we are called to imitate Christ, to become nailed to the cross with Christ in our own lives, to destroy all that is not of Christ within ourselves.
St. Methodius of Olympus says that "to be prepared against the entrance of the gales of the Evil Spirit, and not to be cast away or overcome, but to refer all to Christ, and strongly to contend against pleasures, brings greater praise than he wins who lives a virgin life calmly and with ease"2, and Meister Eckhart also says that "the perfection of virtue comes of struggle"3.
I take hope in these words, and I hope you do too.
1 - From here.
2 - The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, qtd. in Fremantle, A Treasury of Early Christianity
3 - The Talks of Instruction, IX