I’ve touched on the subject of reactionary attitudes within the Church before. The topic deserves a closer look. Given the rapid falling away of many Churches into apostasy at the present time, some reaction certainly is justified. Much in the way our forefathers worshiped God is worthy of preservation. Moreover, a reverence of the Bible as inspired of God and inerrant is necessary for the maintenance of a healthy Christianity. Paul, speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit, makes frequent mention of the need to stand firm in our understanding of the Word of God, as in 1 Corinthians 16:13:
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
But in the very next verse he reminds us to do all things in love. A reactionary stance can easily harden our hearts away from a fellowship with God. When that happens we become so fixated on maintaining Church doctrine that we lose sight of our relationship with God, and particularly in the matter of love. I believe that this is what Jesus was speaking of in His admonition to the Ephesian Church in Revelation 1:1-5:
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them who are evil; and thou hast tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and not fainted.
“Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from where thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of its place, except thou repent.”
As I interpret this passage, Jesus is telling this Church as kindly as possible that even if reaction is called for, as it certainly must, it must not eat into the love of God which, after all, is the Great Commandment that God, through Moses, gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5, and which Jesus repeated in essence in Matthew 22:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
(I consider the statement of monotheism in Deuteronomy 6:4 to be integral to the command for love in the next verse. I have undertaken to explain why in my book Family of God and in my follow-on novel Buddy.)
I’m not a Roman Catholic, nor do I intend to be in the near future, although one never knows. For now, my perception of the various ways that this Church has disregarded Scripture prevents me from making that kind of jump. Nevertheless, I see a good many Protestant Churches doing the same thing. Half of them seem to be falling all over themselves to compromise the Word of God in their search to accommodate Christianity with the world at large, something that can’t be done. The other half seem to have bared their teeth in reactionary firmness, but in so doing have lost their all-important love of God.
The depravity that has elicited this reactionary stance seems to me to be concentrated for the most part near the top, just about where the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin were when Jesus Christ walked the earth as a man. Down at the level of you and me, there are a lot of Churchgoers, both Catholic and Protestant, who still want to worship God in love and truth.
In my novel Buddy I referred to a very moving story that I consider to be a wonderful example of the kind of love that God treasures. If this book of Father Vann’s is any indication of the way that Catholics worship God, then I’d have to say that they have an edge over us Protestants in that regard. I quote from Buddy below as Earl talks to his wife Joyce:
“’I read a little book written by Dominican Father Gerald Vann, in which he addressed the hatred and suffering in the world during the Second World War. The book was called Mary’s Answer for our Troubled Times. Like the title suggests, he wrote about Mary’s own suffering while Jesus was on the cross. I can’t say that Father Vann was always Scripturally accurate down to the last detail in all he wrote about Mary, but I do think that he captured the essence of Scripture in a magnificent way in presenting a stunning demonstration of nobility on Mary’s part during that time. It deeply moved me.
“’So share it.’
“’He talked of Mary’s concentration of gaze and rapt, exclusive focus on Jesus as He endured His suffering. He contrasted the mutual sorrow-laden silence between her and Jesus with the noisier, more self-serving lamentations of the other women, developing a picture of Mary of stoic determination. She had a task, Vann claimed. This task involved the double sorrow of the mother as she watched the torments of the Son, and of the girl who flinched at the sight of naked evil and cruelty destroying innocence and beauty and love. She remained silent, because it was not for her to find an emotional outlet for her grief, for she is here because of Him, to fulfill her vocation as mother by helping Him to fulfill His as Savior. In her, as Vann claims, there are two conflicting agonies: the longing to save Him from His agony and the effort to help Him to finish His work. It is the second that she must do, giving Him to the world on the Cross as she has given Him to the world in the stable.’
“’Oh, my,” Joyce exclaimed, wiping a tear from her eye. “I didn’t expect that. What a beautiful description.”
One appreciates from a reading of the Gospel accounts that Father Vann didn’t get this vignette of Mary directly from Scripture, for the Gospels didn’t go into that depth regarding Mary’s motivation as she watched her Son die on the cross. But yet in a sense he indeed acquire this from Scripture, for if one would extract from Scripture in its entirety the essence of the ideal relationship between mankind and God, and encapsulate it into the heart of Mary’s role as earthly mother of God, it would be precisely consistent with what Father Vann captured in this passage. It also shows us how we, as committed Christians, must behave as the world about us collapses upon itself. We must be reactionary to it to the extent of preserving our reverence for Scripture and worshiping God in its light. But we must above all maintain our love of God, and demonstrate the light of Christ to the world at large, fallen as it might be and uncompromising as we must be in our faith, through loving compassion toward our fellows.
Published by Art Perkins