Why bother to Christianize those outside the Church?
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | November 1, 2019
Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. Belatedly, here is my answer to your questions.
Let’s turn to your first question: “Is it true that Christians will be judged more harshly than non-Christians?”
I’m sorry to be the bearer of “bad news,” but yes, it is true, and don’t take Father Emmanuel’s word for it. We find the answer in the Holy Scripture.
Speaking of the Judgment, the Lord says:
“That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)
Therefore God’s Judgment will not be the same for everyone. Admittedly we, Orthodox Christians, have received everything: sonship, eternal life, union with God. We should respond accordingly to these great gifts. The Lord teaches us something similar in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30). We also learn that judgment for Tyre and Sidon will be more bearable than for Chorazin and Bethsaida (Mt. 11:21-22). A similar example is given with Sodom versus Capernaum (Mt. 11:23-24).
The Apostle Paul also answers more directly your question, how can the non-Christians be judged more lightly than the Christians. St. Paul opens the eyes of the proud Jews, who considered themselves to be the elect, having the Law and the promises of God: “He (God) will render to every man according to his works… Glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.” (Rom. 2:6.10)
Applying the Apostle’s words to us: The Jews (read Orthodox Christians) have the Law (in our case the fullness of the Gospel) and they will be judged according to it; the Gentiles (read non-Christians) have their conscience (v. 15) to guide them. The note in RSV states: “Paul recognizes (despite 1:18-32) that there are morally sensitive and responsible Gentiles, however far short they may fall of God’s righteous demands.”
So “the billions” you mentioned, who live with scraps of knowledge will be shown more mercy than those who had all the opportunity to sanctify themselves, but did not (cf. Lk. 12:47-48), and instead they dissipated their God-given talents (cf. Mt. 25:14-30, especially v. 29).
Let’s now address your second question, which is the conclusion of your syllogism: if even those who are outside the Church can be saved [in fact by doing less than those who are within the Church], why bother to Christianize them?
We “bother” (I know you don’t mean it, it’s just an expression) because it’s the Lord’s commandment, and we must obey it.
“There is an imperative for the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).
The mission of the Church is to evangelize the world, to preach the Gospel of salvation to every human being “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The end of the Church’s proclamation to the world is that all “may have fellowship with us [the Church of the believers]; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3) and with the Holy Spirit. The purpose of evangelism is to bring all humanity to the unity of the triune God through Jesus Christ. This also constitutes a duty of all its members, namely to proclaim the Gospel in word and action to all. This is a movement both inward and outward.”1
We became Orthodox Christians because we want to be a member of Christ’s Body, the holy Church, and thus be “saved”, i.e. be eternally with Him and behold His glory. And we want everyone else to know that this salvation is available to all who desire to embrace it. What the Lord will do, and how is He going to judge us is His business. Ours is to do His will. The Apostle Paul is very clear about it:
“What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
“For us Christians the Judgment is going to be a personal accounting for what we have done in return for what Christ has done for us. For those who have not known Christ, they will be judged based on whether they have lived according to their conscience, whether they have done right or wrong. For us, however, who call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, much more will be demanded! It is going to be a matter of whether we have loved Christ with the same love He has loved us, whether we have multiplied the gifts He has bestowed upon us and has made available to us through His holy Church, and of whether we lived by the promises we made when we were baptized.”2
We seem to be too preoccupied about figuring out who and how will be saved outside of the Church, when our main concern is to sanctify our lives and to spread the gospel of the Lord to the world. Of course we are concerned about close relatives and friends, who have not joined us in our great step to enter the Church through holy baptism, incorporating ourselves with the Lord and participating in His life, but the answer is not to justify their decision by telling them, “you can still be saved if you are a good Christian, no matter in which denomination, or even (why not?) in which faith you belong.”
The way to the Father is only through His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:6). He who said so placed an obligation on us to preach the gospel of salvation: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). And the Apostle Paul says, “Woe to me if I don’t evangelize” (1 Cor. 9:16).
- This paragraph is an excerpt from our post, “Kerygma and Martyria”
- This paragraph is an excerpt from our post, “What is the correct mindset and attitude a Christian should have?”
Article graphics and editing by Anthony Hatzidakis