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Question 54.

A question that I asked you directly once, but a common one that I'm sure others would find interesting: Do we have have to go to church often to be 'good Christians'?

 

Answer to Question 54.

 

What is a “Good Christian”?  Christianity is not a religion, it is a way of life; it is living a life in Christ who is the only truth. By everything that we do we must imitate our Lord, and only by following his way of life and teachings can we truly be called a Christian. Christ is our guide for what is right and wrong. It is not just being a good person and doing good deeds. There are many who do these things that are not Christian.  In our lives we take great care of the needs of the body but rarely look to the needs of the soul. Our attending church is bound to the need to be close to God and for us to partake of the precious Body and Blood of Christ. This is what is necessary; regular communion of the Holy Chalice, but most people, even those who attend every Sunday only partake just a few times a year. Personally I believe that if you are not going to partake of Holy Communion then there is no need to attend church, but there are those who would argue differently.  As Christians who love God, we should also have a desire to attend his house and if we truly love our Lord Jesus then we would want to be partakers of his Body and Blood continuously and at every occasion. So basically your question comes down to how much you want to be with God. We cannot just be Christians in name only, we must live according to what the Church teaches. There is a canon that says if we fail to attend church for three consecutive weeks then we should be denied communion. But we don’t preach punishment; Christ said IF anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, let him take up his cross and follow me. So we basically preach “IF”. IF you believe and want to be joined to Christ in Holy Communion and IF you don’t then you can’t really say that you love Christ.

 

Same member

 

I understand your explanation. Totally makes sense. There are many people I know (some very close to me) who attend church every single Sunday without fail and at every opportunity they preach to me that they are very good and 'correct' Christians as they attend church and receive holy communion. Then 10 minutes later they are slagging off their neighbour or 'friend' or admitting to stealing something 'small' like a pen or a toy for their child. Obviously this is very hypocritical and this is why I'm sometimes disappointed with those who claim to be 'religious', more so than I. I am also referring to people of the cloth, teachers, neighbours etc. Their mantra seems to be 'Do as I say, not as i do'. Whilst im not naive to think that they ARE correct in their behaviour (but there again who am I to judge) I just feel fed up and disheartened with those that I should respect, be it my elders or a teacher or even a family member. I will not lie, personally I don't go to church often, (up to 10-15 years ago I would attend most Sundays) but I feel maybe a small percentage of the reason I dont attend is the hypocrisy I see around me. Main reason is if I'm brutally honest is that I cant get up that early!

 

Answer

 

 Sadly there are many people today who fill the shoes of the Pharisees of New Testament times. On many times, Christ had to reprimand them for their misinterpretation of the law and their misplaced faith. The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is a good example (Luke 18:10-14).  The parable is about two completely different men from completely different backgrounds who went up to the temple to pray with completely different attitudes.  The Pharisee was a member of a religious group who, as puritans of the Jewish faith, zealously kept the letter of the Law. He believes that he is an exemplary example to others of what a good Jew must be and because he was such a perfect Jew who had never made a mistake he never felt the need for repentance. He goes to the temple to pray, but his prayer is not a thanksgiving but a proclamation of his righteousness. He is so self-assured and proud of himself that he is perfect that he justifies himself before God that he is righteous, and not like other men who are extortioners, unjust and adulterers and seeing the Publican who was standing at a distance, he adds “and especially not like that Publican” whom he considered as the worst kind of person – the scum of the earth. In general most upright and law-abiding citizens despised Publicans because they were tax collectors who bought from the Romans, the rights to collect the taxes from the people, but instead of collecting the proper taxes that the Romans asked for, they extorted from the people double or triple the amount.  The Pharisee cannot see his own wretched condition; he cannot see his own sins, but only the sins of other men. He is an egocentric man, arrogant, self-asserted, cruel and inhumane especially with sinners like the Publican whom he would certainly have nothing to do with lest he became contaminated. He is proud and boastful that he had knowledge of the Law yet he disregarded the Giver of the Law. Except for his self-love he didn’t know the meaning of love. He disregarded the fact that love is the fulfilment of the Law of which he considered he was a teacher and interpreter; and this was all due to the fact that he didn’t have even a vague relationship with God who is love.  He keeps to the letter of the law by fasting twice a week and contributes to the temple according to what the law tells him to contribute. Thus because he externally fulfils what the Law requires of him, he believes that this is all that God requires of him. According to how he understands the Law, he is righteous so why would he need to change, why even would he need to ask for God’s mercy, only sinners ask for God to be merciful, but he is not a sinner so in effect he doesn’t even need God. The only reason he went up to the temple to pray was to be seen by other men. The whole purpose of the Pharisee’s life is to be recognized by others as good, great, wise and a teacher of virtue. Whatever good he does he does it to be seen by other people and attract their praise and glory. He suffers from egocentricity and self-satisfaction. He never presents himself as he actually is so that he doesn’t diminish his reputation, his image and authority among the people. His vainglory has no limits. He pretends to be pious and creates a false image for himself and others. How can such a man repent when repentance presupposes an act of self denial? How can he crucify his ego and place it below everyone else when he strives to always be above everyone else? He will never taste the heights to which humility can take him. He goes up to the temple with the Publican to pray and to meet God, but he can’t imagine that God can only be found on the road of humility.  In the parable Christ says: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself”. The fathers say that the “Pharisee stood” is interpreted as meaning his high and mighty arrogance, his high-mindedness and his unrepentant attitude. He certainly doesn’t pray to God for as Christ said: he prayed to himself. He thanks God not for his beneficence, but because he is different from everyone else. All other people are extortioners, unjust and adulterers. He judges, insults and humiliates everyone except himself.  The central message of the Parable is repentance, but it is interwoven which warnings to beware of the sin of pride. The parables are not just stories involving characters unrelated to us. In the majority of them Christ is telling us to look carefully at these characters and try to identify ourselves in them. Thus we must ask ourselves “do we bear him a resemblance?” We may not like him and certainly we can’t imagine ourselves resembling him even the slightest, but if we look deep and truly examine ourselves there are elements of his pride in all of us. Pride is a devious sin and has a way of concealing itself in righteousness. Good is not always good. We judge what is good by our fallen human nature, yet this good might be completely different to what the Gospel teaches and if it is different then it is not really good, but evil dressed up as good. When we do something good do we not want recognition for what we have done, if we help someone do we not want at least a thank you, when we fast do we not let others know that we are doing our duty as good Christians? Let’s us not forget that the Pharisee was a good Jew; he observed all the requirements of the Law. For us also, if we fulfil the requirements of the Church will we not also consider ourselves as good Christians? When we talk with others who have no idea about religious matters do we not take pride that we have a certain amount of knowledge and can enlighten them. Somewhere in all that we do pride is always lurking and hiding and ready to pop up its ugly head. If we assume that we are spiritually strong enough to overcome pride then this is also a form of pride. No matter how virtuous we have become, if there is still a little pride in the background then our virtues have no value. Pride is the hardest vice to overcome. It is the mother of all vices and the original sin. It was pride that brought down Lucifer and his angelic order. It was pride that brought about Adam’s exile from Paradise. That was why Christ clothed himself with humility to reopen the gates of Paradise. Humility is the only thing that can overcome pride.