One of the common notions of this age, especially as compared to others in the past, is the supremacy of the individual. That is to say, that notion that oneself is the final and best arbiter of what is best for oneself is dominant. Many if not most of our community has sufficient ignorance of history and the changes in culture that have occurred in the past century or two that by and large there is rampant ignorance that this is in fact a radical departure from the past. While it is a common trite saying that those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it. It is also the case that those who forget the past can’t understand which choices they make are better or worse than those of prior ages. One might suggest that those who are unaware of the past, will believe anything they do as better than before, alas without any knowledge of whether that is indeed the case or not.

While this notion (radical individualism) has indeed many political and other more mundane consequences, it also impacts the Church, especially those parts of the church most subject to change, that is to say, the Protestant church especially in America. Are you saved? is asked. a common reply is to affirm that for many their personal relationship with the deity, i.e., Jesus is in fact their ticket to salvation. Additionally, we ask and require that each person discern, often with no notion of outside assistance, the best way to deepen and to strengthen their relationship with God. The cafeteria presentation of Church in the modern society, that if you don’t like this one, well, why don’t you try that one. The notion that salvation is something you can achieve outside of the community of the Church is a new notion. That is, the notion that you can be saved while some (all or many) of the brethren with whom you worship will not is radical, and I’d suggest wrong.

Levitical purity customs through ritual and praxis emphasized for the early Israelite that sin is not a solitary act. It doesn’t just affect your and your personal Jesus. Sin affects all those around you, that is you, your family, your larger community, and your land. Atonement and purification were done accompanying repentance to demonstrate publicly that your sin was acknowledged, that you repent, and that those outside yourself who are affected could rest easy (on that regard).

Jesus came not to replace the Law, but to fulfill it. The notion that in fulfilling it, he removed community notions of Church, community and sin is both not supported in Gospel and Scripture, is anhistorical, and finally is merely a reflection of the zeitgeist of the age reflected in the modern parish community. Inasmuch as we are to be in but not of the world, this is part of the world which we should reject.

What does this mean. This means that we, as Christians, should feel more tightly bound to our brothers in Christ than we often do. This does not mean that the Church is our means to salvation, but that we will not be judged as separately as we might think from our neighbor. Your sin may doom your brother or sister. Repentance and our personal atonement for our failings is in some sense all the more urgent because it does not affect us alone, but us communally. If the consequences of my failings affect me, that is one thing. If the consequences of my failing affect my neighbor it seems to me that makes it all the more urgent to set my house in order. This however is often taken the wrong way. The consequence of my sin affecting my neighbor and brethren is often taken in the reverse way, that this often implies an interest we might have in correcting the sin of the other. However that is getting the matter hind end foremost. It should be that my concern for my neighbor should make me more wary and careful to keep my own house (that is myself) in order.  Timothy notes, “”. It is, one must admit, far easier and less painful (and repentant) to concern ourselves with the sins of others. However, it is (alas?) not what is prescribed.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.OrthodoxProtestantismReligion

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