Of course there are individuals within the Church, individuals like me, who condemn others. That is where I start to go. I am one who begins to lash out, to shrink inside, to prepare my defenses and my battles.
The Church follows King David’s example. He, sinner that he was, faulty, refused to condemn his predecessor, King Saul. David wasn’t naive, either, he saw when the time came to run away from Saul and wasn’t above having Jonathan cover his tracks and save his life.
In the Church, we read David’s repentant Psalm every morning. This is a cleansing, healing time for me.
I wish to conform my life to this kind of example.
My heritage is that of people cut off from the Church. Not cut off from Christ, because history shows His name spreading throughout the earth. This is quite something. The Church, however, as I’m seeing things now, has often in many ways been kept hidden. But always the Body is connected to the Name. Ever the prayers of the faithful (those keeping the faith once delivered) arise with incense, morning and evening, sometimes more often, for the whole world. Condemnation is markedly absent from the services I've witnessed. This is amazing.
And yet those outside the Church fear condemnation and see it as inevitable. How do I know this? I have lived it. I dismissed, I feared, I ridiculed that which I didn’t know. I refused to understand the Church in context. I didn’t know there was a context to understand. I was raised in psuedo-churches.
It's no wonder people everywhere, but markedly those in the West, come up with twisted versions of sacraments (perhaps they’re just hollow versions, lacking the true substance which is Christ). The abandoning of the Church, the hiding, was done by those with so-called power, but the keeping, as if behind a rock while Jonathan spoke to the boy who shot his arrows, has been accomplished through people, by the Holy Spirit.
Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Grace is another word, I think, for the lacking component. We in the West don’t offer it to each other. It is fairly foreign in the churches, and that estrangement carries over more and more into the culture. Who is willing to be misunderstood? Who will suffer in prayer for others? Who offers a cup of cold water to another who travels in the name of Christ and longs to be His disciple? Who simply gives without agenda? Who can begin to be a little child loving others? Who fears God and not men?
Some individuals do. But striving for these righteous graces, they believe, must be done outside the Body, because they (we as Protestants) see no Body. In a sense, it was stolen away.
Only by grace from the Holy Spirit may the sacraments be received. The holy mysteries are, as is everything from God, for our benefit. For my benefit. Yet I derided them, becoming more defensive all the time, eager to show up error in this intrusion of a thing called Orthodoxy.
I was right; Orthodoxy was wrong. There was no wrestling to reach that conclusion. It was my starting point. This also happened way back in history. People rushed forward, assuming they carried the Church into their own selfish, condemning territory. They didn’t leave Christ behind — His name can never be sidelined — but they forsook His Body, His Way. That is my heritage.
Even so, I have no excuse. I remained stubbornly blind and asleep. Yet at the same time I am able to be released, to live in the light of the Church’s kindness and freedom. She never condemned me. And I must work with all I’ve got to refrain from condemnation of those who are just like me. I wish to follow David and the Church into grace, into sacramental love.