Should we love our brother or sister only when we agree with them? Should we condemn a fellow baptized Orthodox brother or sister simply because we have a profound disagreement over issues that, while important, nevertheless remain peripheral to the essentials of our Faith? Should we strive for Orthodox unity, or should we divide ourselves over misunderstandings, ignorance, and a recalcitrant refusal to give our brethren the benefit of the doubt?
No one is more opinionated and unwavering in their convictions than I am. I have great respect for those who hold firm to their views and valiantly defend them. Personally, I am shocked and amazed by some of the opinions professed by some of my fellow Orthodox Christians on this forum. Often I find certain views quite at odds with an Orthodox worldview. However, I have yet to see a professing Orthodox Christian on this forum who has denied the Holy Trinity, denied the Sacraments, or professed a clear heresy. And thus I both accept and respect them as my brethren in the true Faith.
For example, I will never understand how an Orthodox Christian can promote things like evolution, homosexual marriage, war, the death penalty, or the legality of abortion. I will never understand how an Orthodox Christian can promote literature that glorifies witchcraft and sorcery. I will never understand how an Orthodox Christian can place more faith in secular psychiatry than in Priestly counsel and the Sacraments of the Church. I will never understand how an Orthodox Christian can be more consumed with secular politics, nationalism, and patriotic fervor than with the Orthodox Faith. (Please understand that I do not mention these things to start a debate about them here, only to illustrate the profound differences of opinion that exist amongsts us.)
There are certain views and opinions professed by some Orthodox Christians that I personally find quite repugnant. However - regardless of how incompatible I think certain views are with Orthodoxy - unless they are promoting clear heresy, I do not condemn my brethren as heretics or question the authenticity of their Baptism. I love them as my brothers and sisters, even in profound disagreement.
I admit that I enjoy a good, robust debate; it’s one of the main ways I learn. This forum has helped me tremendously in honing my ideas, re-examining my philosophies, - and most importantly - educating me about the Orthodox Faith. I have frequently been wrong, and sometimes I have been accused of being wrong when I really wasn’t. And I imagine that I have also sometimes unfairly accused others of being wrong when they have actually been right. Many of these controversial issues will never be settled until we get to heaven (may God grant us His mercy), and I'm guessing that most of these "important" arguments will no longer even matter then.
I like to be challenged, and I like to challenge others. As I said, this is one of the main ways that I learn. That’s what debate is all about. But as Orthodox Christians, our standards for discussion and debate should be much higher than the standards of this world. No matter how much we disagree, we should always disagree in love. We should never be afraid to challenge each other, refute illogical ideas, and even ridicule and mock absurd arguments. But we should never personally disparage a brother or sister, presume to psychoanalyze them, or question the authenticity of their Orthodox Faith.
I would like to mention one individual here as a positive example (I hope he does not mind). I cannot speak for his dealings with others on this forum, I can only speak of how he has dealt with me. Heorhij
and I have had some profound disagreements on many vital issues. We have had some intense and heated debates on this forum. However, I do not recall Heorhij
ever disparaging me personally or questioning my Orthodox Faith. He has always seemed to be able to separate the issues from the individual, never allowing our philosophical differences to alter his view of me as his Orthodox brother. I doubt if Heorhij and I will ever see eye to eye on certain matters, but I feel a strong spiritual kinship with him nonetheless. I know he is my Orthodox brother in Christ.
My brothers and sisters, we are all in this spiritual fight together. We face the same adversary who prowls about day and night seeking to devour us. [I Peter 5:8] Through this forum we are all seeking knowledge, understanding, and even fellowship. This forum provides a certain sense of community of which we all form a vital part. Every time we log on to this forum we should expect to be edified by the knowledge, argumentation, and spiritual wisdom that every poster has the potential to offer. But too often we log on and face sarcasm, ridicule, cynicism, judgment, and condemnation. And I confess that I have probably contributed to the negativity as much as anyone else here- if not more so.
It is my prayer that we will all strive to do better. We should actually endeavor to serve
one another on this forum. And serving one another does not mean agreeing with each other or allowing views we find objectionable to go unchallenged. But serving one another does
mean seasoning our zeal with grace, balancing our arguments with humility, and tempering our criticisms with love.
I’m sure that the founders and organizers of OC.net intended this forum to be an instrument that promotes the Truth of Christ and His Church, enlightenment for Orthodox inquirers, and mutual edification for all Orthodox Christians. I hope that all of us will keep these noble intentions in mind as we continue to post our thoughts, opinions, arguments, and views.
I have been a frequent poster on OC.net, and I value this forum greatly. Through this forum - with deepest thanks to Father Chris
- my family and I found a wonderful Eastern Orthodox parish that has served as our spiritual “home away from home” (we are seven hours removed from our own EOTC Church.) And through this forum I have made a few wonderful friends that have been tremendous encouragements to me in my own Christian struggle. So, I feel a sense of community and a familial bond with everyone here at OC.net. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of me, I can assure you that I view everyone here as part of my Christian family.
St. Paul wrote “But now abideth faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.” [I Corinthian 13:33]
St. John stated, ”If we love one another, God dwelleth in us.” [I John 4:12
And Our Lord said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [St. John 13:35]
I want to sincerely apologize to everyone on this forum for too often failing to practice Christian love when expressing my views and opinions. I will continue to hold firm to my convictions and express my thoughts forthrightly, but I must strive to do so with the imperative of Christian love in the forefront of my mind. I ask both for your forgiveness and for your prayers. And if you ever feel that I have expressed anything in an unloving or unchristian manner, please refer me to my own post here.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I pray that it will help to move us all in the right direction. What I have written I have written to myself first and foremost, as I more than anyone else on this forum needs to heed this advice.
May God have mercy on us all.
Please pray for me, a sinner.
Selam,Gebre Menfes Kidus