Lukewarm

On Being Lukewarm

An Orthodox Christian who knowingly sins for some material reason – i.e. for the sake of maintaining the status quo regarding his job, his family situation, his house, etc. – such a man knows that he is doing something wrong. He knows his reason is not divine but is secular and merely human. He knows that he is acting materially in a way that is not divine. He know this is a sin. He can either admit this sin, or he can deny that he is sinning. If he admits this sin, he can either stop sinning or he can continue sinning. If he continues sinning, then of course the evil one will dominate him in his mind and body. This domination will be visible to others. He will look and sound different from before. On the other hand, if he stops sinning, and stops benefitting from the evil fruits of his wrong-doing, then now he will have an opportunity to repent. Simply refraining from sin is not yet repenting. This is the character of the lukewarm. Will he take his opportunity to repent? It looks to me like some Orthodox Christians who commit sin for some temporary, material benefit – i.e. to maintain the status quo of their current life conditions, for example – these ones have taken a pragmatic position. They know they are doing something wrong to just to ‘get by’ for now. The Lord will judge them. The Lord will judge us. My point is that there are two ways that some Orthodox Christians are currently sinning here, and both of these ways are bad. The first way is that those who agree to this sin for the sake of temporarily maintaining the status quo in their lives do it but without having much appetite or much attachment to the conditions of their life. They are being pragmatic and practical. They plan to change and do the right thing as soon as they are able. I think this is wrong. The evil one will gain rights over them. They should do the right thing now. They shouldn’t wait. Neither should we wait. The time for our ongoing repentance is always now. The second way is even worse. These ones start to justify themselves. Their passions run wild. They foist their sins onto others. They try to hurt, exploit and injure others. They try to benefit materially, more and more. So their sins also increase, more and more. Anyway, after we stop sinning, we all know that then comes the time of repentance. This fact of repentance-time is unavoidable. Unavoidable. Repentance is a hard fact, and it can go either well or badly. This time of repentance is now. Only now. There is no time for repentance after this time. This is our Orthodox dogma. To embody this Orthodox dogma and to always be actively repenting is to be Orthodox. It is our orthopraxia. To practise anything else is to not be Orthodox. To practise something else is to embody some other, strange doctrine. I think that some Orthodox Christians who take a pragmatic position by agreeing to do sin are being visibly ‘lukewarm.’ Other people can see their ‘lukewarmness.’ But there is more to it. As we have said, ‘lukewarm’ Orthodox Christians are also operating from some hidden, strange secret dogma in their hearts. This secret dogma will affect them. Their personalities will change. Their behaviour will change. They will seem different from before. Of course, the way of repentance is always open to them. But repentance, if and when they experiment with it, will seem very difficult to them. They will not want to repent. They don’t like it and will not like it. Just as they don’t want to repent now, neither will they want to repent later. They don’t understand that repentance cannot be forced. Nor can it be faked. The belief that repentance can be forced by their natural antipathy to discomfort is a mistake. To understand this point is key: repentance is only ever voluntary. They mistakenly believe that repentance might issue from them by force of circumstance or condition. No. Repentance can only issue forth from them voluntarily – and never in a fake way – when there is correct, Orthodox dogma in their hearts. This correct, Orthodox dogma dictates that acting materially, for purely secular and human aims, is a sin because it is not partaking of divine energy. Correct dogma will also say that the only time for repentance is now – in the ongoing, continuous sense – in these few years granted to us. Whoever embodies these points of correct, Orthodox dogma will never be lukewarm. A friend of mine who is a priest told me that the injunction to “…love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole power” (Deut 6:5) includes all the powers of our body and of our soul. That is, all the powers of our whole being, both materially and immaterially. For this reason, dogma is not just for the intellect alone, but it is also for our physical nature. Dogma is physical as well as being psychical. We don’t just contain correct dogma in our mind, but we also contain it in our body. The divine, energetic grace and virtue of the Lord is containable in both our minds and bodies. Or, more correctly, we can say that the divine, energetic grace and virtue of the Lord is containable in us as created men and women. We don’t need to distinguish the material and immaterial aspects of our being while regarding this question. If someone has sinned against the Lord for the sake of his material status quo, well, he can repent, theoretically speaking. No one but the Lord will judge him. We cannot do his repentance for him. We can barely repent for even our own sins. The question is whether we, who are ourselves lukewarm, will take our own opportunity to repent right now?

Church Life

On Imposture

Strike a pose and call it repentance. The repentant pose can be dry. The dry, Christian pose of repentance reads like a pamphlet or brochure, much like some other Christians issue daily press releases on how ‘saved’ they are. The repentant pose can also be wet. The wet, Christian pose of repentance is purely psychological, as a neurotic, mental affect in the mind. The wet Christian must perpetually advertise his anxiety and distress. However, true repentance is not a posture but a position. The truly repentant position is characterised by nothing short of maximum, spiritual grief, 100% pain of heart. Anything less is just an illusion or dream. After a struggler finds himself located in 100% spiritual grief and pain of heart, then something strange happens: he is no longer affected by despair. Unlike breezy, Christian poseurs, a truly repentant man is not menaced or consumed by secret despair. Rather, he himself has ‘eaten’ or consumed his own despair. He is beyond despair. At this point, full lamentation can take hold. This is not pretty. It’s an appalling, horrifying sight. We would recoil, aghast in fear and distaste, should we encounter a saint in the throes of his repentance. For this reason, the saints avoid our company, or play the fool with us, because they do not want to impose the horror of their condition upon us. Did you taste this horror? Do you remember the turning-point in your life, when the Holy Spirit whispered salvation into your ear? A memory of a grace-filled moment is also a present illusion. That same grace-filled moment of our repentant conversion can and should be a present reality once again. It should not be written into the memory-hole of our publicized, psycho-social history. It should be vivified in secret by our hidden grief. These things are veiled and invisible. Repentance is not a dream, and a saint is never an imposter.