Orthodox America

Come Out...My People


Among those that pay the slightest attention to world and national news, is there anyone today 'who doesn't have a profound sense of unease? Recent media reports speak of ...

Politicians without a world-view other than the ethics of hypocrisy-run-rampant...a younger generation awash in a sea of alcohol, drugs and sex...."assisted" suicides....multi-generations with the morals of al- Icy-cats....a powerful mass media that consistently portrays the worst, the most negative and bestial of human behaviour...,"adult" book- stores-and the equally destructive pornography of the occult....a holocaust against the defenseless unborn....decadent and wasteful sports- mania circuses....more and more people--and not just the elderly-- afraid to venture forth after dark, because the night has become the realm of the living-dead in our society as our own horror-movies come true!.... ...We have become an anti-life society, languishing in a materialism that feeds greed and promotes false values, racism, oppression and war. We have already outdone the degeneracy and turpitude of ancient Babylon or Rome....

This is more than just the cyclical rise and fall of nations and peoples. It is, in fact, a sure sign of demonic activity unlocked upon us. As others have wisely observed: our generation has opened the Book of the Apocalypse. We see here a harlot, a "great whore," sitting upon a scarIet-covered beast and...having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication (Apoc. 17:3-4). In explaining this terrible mystery, Archbishop Averky writes:

"Some commentators see in this harlot...the society of the apostates of God--that part of Christian humanity which will enter into close contact with the world of sin, will serve it and depend entirely upon its crude pow- er....A more general commentary is inclined to see in this harlot--who bears the name of Babylon--the whole crudely sensual and anti-Christian culture of mankind in the last times in general..." (The Apocalypse of St. John: an Orthodox Commentary)

Then we hear the voice of the Lord:

Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins; and that ye receive not of her plagues (Apoc. 18:4).

This cry to "come out" from the world of sin reverberates throughout the Scriptures: Isaiah's plea-Depart ye...go ye out from the midst of her; separate yourselves--is quoted by St Paul in his exhortation to the Corinthians: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord (II Cor. 6:14-17).

We make bold to call ourselves Christians. As such, we are called to be in this world but not of this world, to be pilgrims and sojourners on earth, a."peculiar people" (I Peter 2:9). As we read in the second century "Letter to Diognetus: "

Christians are not marked off from other men by their country, their language or their clothes....Thcy are spread out among the Greeks and barbarian cities according as their lot has settled thcm....Each lives in his native country, but as a foreigner domiciled in it...Thcy are in the flesh, but do not live by its laws. They pass their life on earth, but are citizens of heaven....In a word, what the soul is in the body, Christians are in the world.

Are we?

It is time we took a hard look at ourselves. We measure ourselves against the sinful excesses which characterize the society around us, and we comfort ourselves with the thought that we're not wallowing in that abyss. But are we really so far removed from this world "gone astray"? We may be a step "behind the times," but we are still marching along, compromising here and there as we almost unnoticeably adapt ourselves to the changing mores of our decaying post-Christian civilization. We are hardly conscious of - being swept along by the general current of public opinion, whose direction is determined by a profoundly unChristian media. Already a hundred years ago, St. John of Kronstadt observed with dismay:

"The greater number of Christians are penetrated by the spirit of the world, by the spirit of magazines, newspapers, and in general of worldly writers, who themselves, in their turn, are penetrated by a heathen and not a Christian spirit, by the spirit of the denial of the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by the spirit of self-exaltation, of the exaltation of their own proud and presumptuous intellect, and by the spirit of worldly vanity." (My Life in Christ)

If we measure ourselves not by today's fallen standards but by the 'Gospel--the same by which we shall be judged at the last--we shall discover an appalling lack of true Christian virtues of Christian self-denial, patience, kindness, unconditional forgiveness, disinterested charity, brotherly love-- all stifled by our Disneyland/K-Mart approach to life. If our hearts are truly to belong to God, we must "come out" of this worldliness, detach ourselves from the world. With good reason St.. John Climacus defines the first step on the ladder to Christian perfection as the "renunciation of the world." This is to be understood primarily in the sense of an inner detachment, not isolation. Here we can be greatly assisted by like-minded friends. 'The friends that you have," advises St. Evagrios, "should be of benefit to you and contribute to your way of life. Avoid association with crafty or aggressive people....If one associates with materially-minded people involved in worldly affairs, one wil~ certainly be affected by their way of life and will be subject to social pressures, to vain talk and every other kind of evil....Let your friends by men of peace, spiritual brethren, holy fathers."

Only by making a radical departure from the ways of this world can we hope to inherit the eternal blessings which the Lord has prepared for those who love Him, in the world to come.