Fr. Thomas Hopko: “But let’s make another scenario. Suppose you have a friend who has never been baptized, and he says, “Please baptize me.” And you say, “Okay, I’m going to run and get some water.” While you are gone the guy dies. Is it too late? Does he go to hell? Some people would say, “Yes, God arranged for him never to get baptized so he could send him to hell because he is among the damned.” That would not be the Orthodox teaching.
“St. Gregory the Theologian said a long time ago that desire would count before God as the baptism, itself. He spoke about the baptism of desire, the baptism of fire. In other words, God is not an ogre, and He is not a machine, pagan-type God, saying, “Not baptized; go to hell.” You could be baptized, chrismated, and serve the Divine Liturgy and go to hell. John Chrysostom said hell would probably be filled with guys wearing porphyria [purple], the stole—pastors. Continue reading →
Thoughts from St. John of Kronstadt, archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church during the 19th century, canonized in the 1960’s:
“If you wish to correct the faults of anyone, do not think of trying to do so solely by your own means: you would only do harm by your own vices, for instance pride and the irritability arising from it; but cast thy burden upon the Lord, and pray with all your heart that God himself will enlighten the heart and mind of that man. If He sees that your prayer breathes love, and that it really comes from the depths of your heart, He will undoubtedly fulfill it, and you will soon see, from the change that has taken place in him for whom you prayed, that it is the work of the most high God.”
From the America magazine article: “St. Augustine wrestled with the issue of whether and how to correct sinners and heretics. “It is a deep and difficult matter to estimate what each one can endure,” he wrote. “And I doubt that many have become better because of impending punishment…. If you punish people, you may ruin them. If you leave them unpunished, you may ruin others. I admit that I make mistakes…. What trembling, what darkness” (Letter 95.3). Every church disciplines its members, penalizing those whose conduct is judged unsuitable for disciples of Jesus. For Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, as well as Catholics, discipline is the hard edge of discipleship.”
At a recent committee meeting, our priest expressed his extreme frustration with a parishioner of long-standing who has developed into a gossipy control freak who has recently caused a long-standing church ministry to implode. Our priest has been personally attacked in this mess and is frustrated at the damage done. His comment was “X needs to find a new place to go to church.”
His bitterness made some people uncomfortable, that it wasn’t charitable. Here’s my question: where does charity begin and end when it involves the health of the parish or the church-at-large? At what point does willful disobedience and willful antagonism result in rightly being invited out of a parish or a faith?