Yesterday was the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the day on which the Church commemorates the victory of Holy Icons over heresy and the truth of Orthodoxy. In every Orthodox Church throughout the globe, children, parents, grandparents, and friends proudly carry icons in processions around Churches. Some even go outside and publicly proclaim, “This is the faith of the Orthodox,” from the Ecumenical Council’s proclamation about Holy Icons. This great public victory doesn’t have to lead to arrogance.
For many Orthodox Christians, yesterday was nothing more than a joyous celebration of Church history. Unfortunately for others, it becomes a day of arrogance, not for lack of faith but lack of compassion. I have many times been accused of being arrogant when it comes to the truth of Orthodoxy. What would possess me to proclaim the Orthodox Church as the truth Church, especially when you consider more than 43,000 denominations of Christianity exist in the world? Why can’t everyone be right? They’re all Christians after all.
This idea that just because 43,000 denominations of Christianity claim to be the Church somehow negates the mathematical impossibility that all the denominations are correct in their teaching about Jesus Christ, is part of the problem. What is worse is that many Christians, to avoid the accusation of arrogance, proudly declare other Christian denominations, whether it be Methodist or Pentecostal, as equally part of the Church. If it were true that each denomination was equally correct, then why do more than 43,000 exist at all? Why not just be part of the Orthodox Church? If we’re being honest, it is because each denomination considers itself as the correct belief, some even using the word orthodox in their name. Did you know there is an Orthodox Lutheran Church?
How do we avoid being arrogant as members of the Orthodox Church? Let me be clear that being correct isn’t the same thing as being arrogant. Especially during Great Lent, our goal is for humility and compassion for others. If we flaunt our faith in the face of others, or rub their faces in our faith, then we are arrogant, and the Gospel isn’t only going to fall on deaf ears; it will die in the coldness of our hearts.
The truth we celebrated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy wasn’t about winning, but about being true to the Gospel. Christ came down from heaven and was incarnate for our salvation. This is true, and we insist on the presence of holy icons as proof of this truth. This truth is only valuable if it affects our life and draws us closer to Christ, as it drew the apostles and early Christians. The Pharisee several weeks ago was used to remind us to avoid arrogance in our spiritual journey. It would be a shame if on the first Sunday of Great Lent, we forgot our humility and turned truth to arrogance. That wouldn’t be a victory at all. Here’s to a blessed second week of Great Lent!