A Christian is a Witness (μάρτυρας)

By Fr. John Burdin

 Since February 24, I have spoken to a multitude of people. Most are shocked by the rampant hatred and anger that they see around them. What shocks them the most is not the pictures of the Apocalypse on the streets of Ukrainian cities, but the joyful "hosanna" that our compatriots sing to this nightmare, their blindness and spiritual callousness.

If there is no love and compassion, there should be at least some idea of what is moral. No moral laws seem to work if there is no ability to distinguish between good and evil. Without this ability, you can torture or burn people, believing that by doing so you are saving their souls, just as the Inquisition once did.

However, a person who is in a state of sin (who is cut off from God) loses the ability to distinguish between good and evil. These categories are distinguishable not by the mind, but by the heart, the ability to feel compassion. To demand that such a person should live by his conscience is like demanding that a blind man should see the sun.

What should a Christian do in this situation?

We know that evil cannot be conquered by evil. In addition to the evangelical imperative, our history is an example of this. When the revolution did not destroy the evil of the autocracy, it gave rise to a yet greater evil, when the mutual cruelty of the Reds and the Whites cast Russia into the abyss of the Gulag. This path, power against power, cruelty against cruelty, always seems to be the easiest to follow. This path is wide. A Christian cannot walk this path while remaining a Christian. On this path, he also loses the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Christ did not come into this world to destroy evil by force and cruelty. Perhaps it would even be an exaggeration to say that He came to destroy evil with love. It is impossible to love evil, and it is impossible to love a person who kills and tortures others.

One can feel only sorry for him. Christ Himself says, "I have come to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37) This is what it means to call evil or good, light or darkness by their names. If that was Christ's  path, shouldn't it be ours, as well?

"What is truth?" (John 18:38) Would it be true to say that a dictator is evil and his opponent is good? No. Both are people, God's creations, who, like me, can make mistakes. Christ died for each of us. Would it be true to say - do not harm another person, do not beat, do not torture, do not kill, do not insult? Yes. This is included in the ten commandments given by God. This is the gospel truth that comes from the mouth of Christ.

Would it be true to say don't lie, don't bear false witness? Yes. Because this is what God calls us to. Would it be right to order a person to beat the unarmed or kill the innocent? Would that be evil? Yes, it would. Do you think that by torturing or killing those you don't like, whom your superiors have pointed out, you are protecting your country, your family, or your wallet? This is self-deception. You are destroying yourself, your family, your country and everything around you. Evil always catches the evil one, no matter his motives. Look around yourself to see the fruits of evil in your heart or of the hearts of other people. Look at the history of humanity.

A natural question arises: what will my words change? The riot policeman will not throw off his baton. The soldier will not lay down his machine gun. The President will not go to a monastery. The Patriarch will not stop preaching about gay parades in Donetsk. At a given moment in history, the triumph of evil seems absolute, just as it did at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. Evil will triumph, but... the thorn in the eyes of the "great persecutor and blasphemer Paul" (1 Timothy 1:13) will fall out, the head of the Praetorians, Sebastian, will throw down his sword and the reveler and libertine Augustine will become blessed...

Evil always tends to embrace all.

Evil is always aimed at the masses. Kindness is always individual, addressed to a specific person. Even Christ did not heal whole countries and continents.

 However, He could remove the thorn from the eyes of the blind so as to give him the opportunity to again distinguish between light and darkness. In order to be heard, you must speak with each of your opponents as you would with a brother or sister in Christ. Look for the distorted image of God within them, one which never completely disappears, even in the most notorious scoundrels.

Even if your testimony is not heard, do not despair. Your job is not to change others, but to testify. First of all, you must testify that apart from mutual hatred and anger, Love also lives in this world. If you lose it yourself, where will it even come from in this world? Of course, personal non-participation in evil, and the denunciation of evil in any place and on any platform, are also important virtues.

The main thing is not to forget the truth is not what seems right to you, but what does not contradict the words of the Gospel and the spirit of Love. Do not forget that you are not saving the world, but helping to distinguish between good and evil. You are μάρτυς, martyr, a witness.