I’m not sure I like using the word “Christian” here. Most of the time we take it to mean a church-member, or at least someone born into Western culture who is not professing anything else. Those of us who have made the conscious profession of following Christ, though, know it means something more. Let’s look at St. Paul’s letter to the church at Colossus:
“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things; for you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
And at St. John’s first epistle: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
These are lessons for the season of Pascha from the Book of Common Prayer, and a good time to be reminded of them, although the original framers of the BCP has no idea what “easter” would become. On Holy Saturday, the eve of Pascha, I was standing in line to buy coffee here at the hospital, and an older woman asked a cherub-faced little boy, “What happens tonight?” And his answer was not, “We remember that Jesus rose from the dead!” but: “The Easter bunny comes!” I almost cried with frustration. (Which, right now, is just where I am anyway, but this is a big frustration!) This child had no concept of the Great Vigil, of the Paschal celebration; the season was just that he received candy. It is heartbreaking.
The world has claimed our festivals and twisted them into horrid travesties of our joy. Someone is sure to say, “Well, didn’t the Christians do that to pagan festivals?” Yes, in a way, the Church claimed the calendar and made it Christian; certainly Christmas (Nativity) is the primary example of that. But Pascha was Pascha first; Israel remembered the Passover from slavery into freedom, and Christians took it on as the remembrance of our liberation from bondage to sin into the freedom of the love of God. Pagans and nonbelievers usurped our feast day and even some of our symbols such as the egg, which symbolizes the empty tomb. Orthodox churches still provide a red hardboiled egg at the end of the Vigil, and it is considered a symbol of faith to eat the egg, and hold up the empty shell. He is no longer here – why do you look for the living among the dead? (And if thee has kept an Orthodox Great Lent, thee knows that the egg is so delicious after weeks of denial, with no eggs, dairy or meat!)
The way of the world is the way of sin and death. The way of the world is desire, ambition, selfishness, greed and competition. It is not the way of Christ. There is no good compromise with the world, which is why we need reminding that we are to be separate, to keep our hearts, our eyes and our hands out of the world, and instead doing the work of God. Our mouths are to speak always of our Lord, and to refrain from silly chatter, gossip and criticism. (It is a good thing to get out of a habit of idle curses, even the mild “Oh my God!” and its silly variant, “Oh my gosh.” Think of the saying, “Do you kiss your mother with that foul mouth?” and subsititute, “Does thee praise thy Lord with that same tongue?”) End thy conversations with “God bless thee!” and not worldly words such as “See you later!” or worse, “Good luck!” For thee does not know if thee will see anything or anyone later: the Lord may call thee out of this world before then. And what is this “luck,” but a pagan attribute instead of the will of God? Be Christian in all thy words and ways, that others will not be deceived as to the nature that thee has received in the Holy Spirit.
Thy person, thy home, thy work and thy words shall reflect Christ if thee chooses to follow Him closely and be worthy of the name “Christian.”