Patricia Anastasia Bartlett is the author of 'Glimpses of Glory', a collection of meditations published by Synaxis Press. Over the years, she has contributed to a number of local newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist, humour, lifestyle and/or religion columnist. She, her husband and five children joined the Orthodox Church in 2000. She and her husband presently attend and serve at St. Aidan's Orthodox Mission in Cranbrook, BC.
What does Christianity look like? That’s a question I’ve asked myself over the years as I’ve encountered groups/churches/cults all purporting to teach true Christianity. I’ve heard those who want to implement the Old Testament laws as the law of the land, a sort of ‘Christian’ Sharia law. I’ve met those who hold to a visible morality, eschewing various levels of modern culture while judging those who don’t live as they do. So many books, TV shows, movies and evangelists all paint a picture of their version of Christianity, ofttimes in opposition to each other.
So what is Christianity supposed to look like? Most recently, I was pointed in the direction of 1 Corinthians 2:2:
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
For Paul, Christianity was suffering, sacrificial love, and he lived that life.
God so loved the world, the whole world, not a select few, that He chose to die for it. Death would no longer hold any of us captive, instead each of us could take our place in eternity before the heavenly throne. My distance from the throne is determined by how human I have become at my death.
Christ is the first fully completed human being. He lived His life for others, and He died on the cross so that the world could be saved. He put others before Himself. He lived and died as a martyr. And if I want to become fully human, then I, too, have to live my life as a martyr.
Martyrdom is not weakness, it is strength. Martyrdom is not sacrificing in order to gain leverage over others. It is love. Martyrdom doesn’t have to mean being persecuted for beliefs. Martyrdom means replacing selfishness with selflessness. It means trusting God with loving humility no matter what the circumstances.
Christ died as a the martyr, so how do I live as one? Every day and in every circumstance, I have an opportunity for martyrdom.
I am married. I constantly have choices to make, choices which can strengthen or erode my relationship with my husband. If I truly love God, then I will lovingly and willingly sacrifice my own own sense of selfish entitlement to consider my husband. He does the same. In an Orthodox wedding ceremony, both the bride and groom wear crowns, representing their martyrdom. They each die to self so they can live for, and draw closer to each other, and by doing so, draw closer to God.
Daily I need to compare my marriage to Christ on the cross.
I am a parent. I had to give up a lot when we decided to have kids. For instance, staying home would reduce our income and all the hardships that would entail. But we were sort of prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was lack of sleep and privacy, the ability to use the toilet, telephone or read a book without interruptions, the strain children placed on our marriage, and so many other things.
How did, and does, my parenting compare to Christ on the cross?
When I’m out and about doing errands or if I’m at work, do I serve all those I encounter with grace and love even if I don’t agree with their lifestyle? Or in the face of vitriolic complaints? Do I help others to succeed or do I ignore them or push them aside in order to get my own wants met first?
Am I able to kneel at the foot of Christ’s cross when I interact with others? Or do I hide my face in shame?
My time on this earth is the only opportunity I have to become fully human. This is where I am formed and developed. This is where I make the choice to ‘look out for number one,’ or to ‘love my neighbor as myself.’ This is where I can choose to give up my own pleasures, my own so-called rights, so others can also live in safety and comfort. If I cannot see the presence of God in every suffering, lonely or angry person, then I will not be able to see the presence of God when I come face-to-face with Him in eternity.
This is the image of Christianity, every Christian a martyr, dying to self and living for others. We are Christ’s body crucified on the cross.
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