My apologies for the format of this. This is not a study of Scripture directly, but instead is taken directly from my journal this afternoon.
I saw something earlier today that really seemed to strike a chord in me. As I was on Facebook, I saw someone who had posted about everything that has been going on in the world. Between the pandemic, which is not only still going on but apparently making a resurgence of sorts in different areas; the violence and rioting with statues being torn down, etc; there was one voice, in text, crying out like one alone in the wilderness. “With everything that’s going on, this world is alien to me.” That statement really resonated with me.
See, this statement resonated with me so strongly because no matter how hard I try or how much I want to, I am just unable to understand the state of the world today. And no matter how hard any voice tries to be the peacemaker amongst all of the chaos and turmoil; it is not only to no avail, but normally paints the person to be taking the opposing side of whomever they are speaking to. No matter which side of the political fence one is on, if you say anything about unity, then you are immediately cast into the other camp and written off. I don’t understand any of it.
Or, I didn’t. Until now.
St Paul tells us in the Book of Hebrews that “here we have no continuing city,” that is to say that we have no permanent home on this world. St Peter instructs us “as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from earthly lusts and keep your conduct honorable…submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors…that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of the foolish man. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
These are important to me, because until that very moment, I understood, but never fully grasped the admonition to be “in the world but not of the world.” At the very moment that I read those words, this warning of the Lord became real to me. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt more distant from the world than at this very moment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like more of a foreigner than the moment of that realization. The world truly does feel completely alien to me.
And yet, it has also given me the chance to better understand what St Seraphim meant when he told us to “acquire a spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved.” See, when I recognized that this isn’t my home, this world, this culture, it didn’t bring with it feelings of fear or anxiety, but rather a sense of calm. A sense of peaceful contentment. A sense of the knowledge that my goal isn’t to save the world, but to keep my eyes turned towards the heavens. To sincerely act in love towards others, even in a land I don’t recognize. Patriarch Kirill states that for the believer, “every fatherland is a foreign land and every foreign land is a fatherland.”
Once we recognize that this world isn’t our home, that we are here temporarily as strangers and pilgrims, then it becomes easier to obey these teachings. We begin to understand that in obeying our civil authorities and keeping our behavior honorable, we honor the name of Christ. And that is our goal in being here. To honor His name, to teach His word, to spread His message, and to display His love. And none of those things can be done if we get so caught up in the political rhetoric of either side of the polemic political fence that we begin to disrespect the other.
But, if we are able to keep our minds focused on the kingdom, then, through the grace of God, we may be able to embody St Seraphim’s teaching. I’ve come to understand that statement more truly now than ever, because through the voice of one random stranger on the internet, I finally realized that the goal must be the Spirit of peace, not the salvation of thousands.
Christ is in our midst.