Orthodox America

  "GO AND Teach..."

by Fr. Alexey Young

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:19)

We in the Free West live amidst millions and millions of people who do not believe in God; even less do they know about the true Church of Christ. This can mean only one thing: we need missionaries!

What is a Missionary?

When our Saviour called His Apostles to Him, He called simple and uneducated men-mostly fishermen-and they hastened to follow Him. They gave up everything in order to serve the Master. They didn't nave college degrees or theological training. They didn't attend a special school for missionaries. But our Lord’s holy love filled them and their hearts burned with a divine fire that enabled them to proclaim the truth to the world. This was the first Orthodox mission. From that day to this, it has never ceased: it still continues, wherever Orthodox Christians strive to love and serve Christ.

Orthodox Christians have accepted the "tidings of great joy," the news that God has sent His only-begotten Son into this world in order to redeem us from our sins and save us from ourselves, if only we will follow Him. But it is not enough to simply be a member of the Church founded by Christ. We have still another calling: just as it wasn't enough for the Apostles to only believe in Christ, so also the Lord said to them: Go, and teach all nations. Teach them what? TEACH THEM ABOUT JESUS CHRIST!

How Do We Teach?

The lives of all missionary saints have certain things in common, and these show us how to be missionaries for Christ:

1. We must make good and wise use of the talents God gives each of us. No matter what those talents might be, we can put them into God's service.

2. We show true love for others by telling them about God and His Church, for if we truly care about someone we will want to share with them our greatest treasure, Orthodoxy, the "pearl of great price" spoken of in Scripture.

3 It isn't necessary to go off to a foreign, pagan country in order to be a missionary. We need missionaries right here, at home! We must be like St. Cosmas Aitolas, who was a missionary to his own Greek people.

A Perfect Missionary

The teaching of Christ must be presented peacefully, in all love and meekness-especially by the example of our own lives-, as we learn from the following hymn (Sticheron) in honor of humble St. Herman of Alaska:

Having one desire, to bring unbelieving people to the One God, thou wast all things to all men, teaching the Holy Scriptures and a life in accordance with it, instructing in handicrafts, and being intercessor be fore the authorities, nursing men in everything like children, that thus thou mightest bring them to God..

Brothers and Sisters: what a lofty calling, then, is ours! To be "all things to all men", nursing them "like children," and thus bring them to God! What greater thing could there be? In other words, we Orthodox Christians are asked to not only teach the truth and a correct way of living, but we must also serve our fellow man in his other needs, spiritual as well as physical. To do this, we must have warm, loving hearts indeed, as wel1 as true doctrine, for both are essential. (May it never be said of Orthodox Christians that they are "pure as angels, but proud as demons.") To us it is given to rekindle the love that is dying out in the world, for because there is now so little love, people are becoming hungry for God. They don't realize that it's God they need, but it is. They search everywhere for Him. And most, when they don't find Him quickly, just start living for themselves, making themselves into idols to be served. They become very selfish and such a life is terribly cold, and lonely and frightening. This is why we need real missionaries so desperately!

Where Are the Missionaries?

Some Orthodox jurisdictions engage in absolutely no missionary activity whatever. They make it their "policy" (spoken or un spoken) not to proseletize in any way. They do not encourage converts and sometimes make church life very difficult for them. In these churches Orthodoxy has become a gorgeous relic, a beautiful museum piece. Some simply never think about missionary work because it is somehow not an "Orthodox" idea May God forgive them!

Where, then, are the missionaries? They are all around us. You, reading these words at this moment, are a missionary! By the way you act and talk and the things you do, you are already teaching people about Orthodoxy-just by your example. In fact, your own example probably teaches more about your faith than if you were to stand on a street corner and preach.

Now the question we must ask is: what kind of missionary am I? If someone is hungry to know about God, what kind of spiritual food can I give them? What more can I do than I am doing now?

One thing we must keep in mind: when we die, and we stand before the throne of judgment, God will say to us: "Well, little soul, I led you to the True Faith and I put you on the earth in the midst of a sea of unbelieving people. Tell me now, Christian soul, what did you do with the Faith I gave you? Did you protect it and also share it? Or did you ignore it or take it for granted? Where is your spiritual fruit? Show Me what you have done to save souls!"

And what will be our answer? When we open our hands before Almighty God, will they be empty?