Bearing his reproach

Heb. 13 : 7–16

The reading of St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 13, verses 7 to 16, demands from us today a deeper understanding.

There are three thoughts of St. Paul which came to my attention and led me to reflect on them. I would like to share my thoughts on this subject with you.

St. Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Then he adds a subsequent thought: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace”. (Heb.13:9) Finally, based on these two thoughts, the Apostle concludes that we, as followers of Christ, must keep away from this “crooked and perverse nation” (Phil. 2:15) and stay close to the Lord, “bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13).

I would like to draw your attention to these three significant thoughts of St. Paul so that through them you might find answers to some crucial questions of your own.

We are shocked and disgusted when we realize that in the past two or three decades the Law of God has been not only severely violated but also trampled on and placed in the archives of history – more so than in the past two or three centuries. Things which only yesterday were considered shameful and morally unacceptable have become not only lawful in human terms, but also “normal,” and even “preferable.”

Whenever I talk with young people, parents of young children who still have their own mind – because, as you know, there are very many of those who have allowed others to think for them – and I share their concern. What is the world going to be like for their children, what choice of perverted norms will they be offered and how far will their generation go in alienating themselves from God. Will anyone at all be saved?

As I said, moral norms have been watered down and our concept of morality has been severely shaken, resulting in a form of spiritual numbness and blindness. Many of us have given up in this struggled and allowed the spirit of the times to prescribe new moral norms and standards to us.

However, the holy Apostle Paul, having foreseen the afflictions of our time, is clear and unequivocal: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). You can change your views as often as you want, you can turn this way and that, you can insist that white is black and vice versa, but the Lord is always the same. He does not change. What He has said in the past, He still says today and in the ages to come. What He demanded of us then, He still demands of us today. “For I am the Lord, I change not”, (Mal. 3:6) He says to us through the prophet Malachi.

So how will we swim against the current, some of you may ask. How can I ask my child to be a “black sheep” or a “white raven” among his peers? As if we do not already stand out enough from the rest of the world…

Yes, this is exactly what is asked of us, my friends. This is what the holy Apostle says. We must be “black sheep” and “white ravens.” “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines” (Heb. 13:9). As much as it may make you seem like fools in the eyes of the world, there is no other way. If the whole world has proclaimed that what has until now been considered as abnormal is now normal, our place is with God – and against this world.

Our place is with the Apostles, prophets, martyrs, holy fathers and all the confessors of our faith, and we can expect to be considered as fools, weak and despised for Christ’s sake (1 Cor. 4;10). Let us not forget, the Apostle’s warning: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But god has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Cor. 1;25-28).

It is not easy to be foolish or to act as a fool. Is there an easy way to God at all?

Doesn’t God Himself tells us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Mt. 7:13-14).

The wise Apostle knows what a sacrifice it is for us to be singled out, mocked and ostracized. This is what he means when he says, “bearing His reproach.” It is what is meant by the words of the hymn we listen to at every holy Liturgy: “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Mt. 5:11)

Because of our choice to bear the Christian name and live the Christian life, there is no other way for us. We cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt. 6:24). As the Apostle says, we must be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation in which we must shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).