It is not an exaggeration to say that we as Orthodox Christians are somehow caught in a culture war, fought in our schools, work places, livingrooms and bedrooms. It is a war that seeks to divide the spiritual (things of God) from normal everyday life (things of man)- in short, secularism.
Secularism affects our politics, our social customs, our habits, and perspectives, through-out our daily lives. But it is most apparent in the Christmas Season.
It is at this time of year that Christmas and everything about the name is somehow glossed over and avoided so as to avoid any chance of excluding those choosing not to believe in the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. So we say “happy Holidays” and have “holiday trees” and go to “holiday parties”, and distance ourselves from the saving gift of our incarnate God.
Protests and complaints like “keep Christ in Christmas” or “He is the reason for the season” that we commonly hear at this time of year, are just a continuation of the rhetoric that Christians of all shapes and sizes use to fight in this culture war. Whether it be protests against abortion, same-sex marriages, euthanasia, or the over-sexualation of our children and families, we make Christianity into a cause, an ideology that we preach at the enemies of Christ.
Christianity is not an ideology in the same way that people are not ideas. Yet we find ourselves caught in the trap of identifying those who seek to distance themselves from Christianity as such. No one starts life wanting to be an enemy of Christ, although it is a temptation that veils itself in the cares and concerns of this world. No one wants to have abortions, yet many seem to think it is their only option. No one wants to feel that they are a mistake of nature or circumstance, yet some feel that they are. No one wants to be rejected for how they feel about those whom they love regardless of their gender, yet they do feel rejected. No one wants to be abandoned and left at the side of life, half dead, but they are. All that anyone wants is to be loved and healed.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see all humanity lying at the side of the road, wounded and broken, not dead, but not alive. And we, like the priest and Levite, who ought to know the Lord, happen to pass by. Do we preach at them, tell them what they did wrong, how it was ill-advised to walk down this road alone, and how their situations are a result of bad choices and more importantly what they have to do to be saved? When we do this, however good the intention is, it is the same as passing by on the other side.
The Gospel directive given in this parable is that we are to minister to them even though we be outcasts like this Samaritan by our confession of Christ. Christ was rejected by those around him, by the powerful and pious alike. He was seen as someone who blasphemed by breaking the religious conventions and traditions of the day. Yet it is His love for us, even though we are sinners (Rm 5:8.) that helps us not only see who our neighbour is, but also whose neighbour I am.
This does not mean that we pretend that certain actions and choices in this world are irrelevant, nor that our proclamation of the Truth, Jesus Christ, is just a personal opinion. Certainly there are choices and actions that separate us from God and what it is to be human, and that sadly blaspheme the Holy Spirit. However, this does not mean that we forsake those who make the destructive choices (and yes they are destructive choices) and prevent them from encountering the love of God. For Christ did not come as new-born Child born in a cavern amidst dumb beasts, to “condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17). He brings us to the safety of the Church until He comes back to repay any debt at His glorious second coming.
It is “having the mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5) in this service as the Samaritan did is how we fight this culture war, how we proclaim the Lord’s victory and saving love. It is how we keep “Christ in Christmas”, and how we keep in context the “reason for the season”. But more importantly it is how we bring healing to a very broken and confused world, that knows nothing of His unending love.