If There Is No Joy In Your Witness…

If there is no joy in your witness, what then would compel me to follow you along your professed “path”?

This is a question I initially raised to a non-Catholic, non-Orthodox friend…a great guy, a great family man, a devout Christian- but one so full of anger in his arguments. Over time, I began to wonder where in his soul does the joy of Christ reside? There seemed to be too much bitterness over the issues discussed or debated to allow a sense of joy to rest within his heart or to be expressed through dialogue. Granted, it sounds as if I’m being judgemental and implying my friend has anger issues- no, that’s not it… but his frustrations over injustices and the growing unrighteousness of the secular world seem to overshadow his message, and this came across more noticeably to me in the period before my coming back to the Church, when I was more apt to debate from my own distorted positions. In the end, it wasn’t any of his valid points of discussions / truth of his arguments that really convinced me to come back, but the very living example of my girlfriend (now, wife)- sure, she would get and gets angry and may express her frustrations, but there is an unshakable faith and joy that permeates her very being, and is at the core of that from which she draws in the challenging moments life throws at us.

Perhaps similarly, I far too often see the first example come to the fore on social media, especially Facebook. I belong to a number of discussion groups- these days, my workload prevents me from being active or as active as I really would like to be….none-the-less, I see a lot of (frankly speaking) bitterness and anger- snipes, unfriendly arguments, and all such manner of unpleasantness that is quite a turn-off. It wouldn’t be so much an issue in more mundane groups, but these are *religious* discussion groups of which I’m writing- and Catholic / Orthodox groups at that! Granted, one may make the legitimate point that we cannot base our opinions of things-religious (groups, communities, etc.) on what we read on social media, but I would like to posit the position that if one were seeking (information, to get a feel of members of a particular Church or expression, etc.), it’s likely such a one would turn to this means of communication as a first effort to establish contact, raise questions, and make the first efforts to learn…… is the immediate face of that Church or expression rife with bitterness, arguing, insult, and a clear lack of charity and joy? What manner of impression would that serve to create?

There is nothing wrong with disagreement, debate, or even spirited discussion- but we must maintain to our Christian principle of charity, we have to keep in mind that our manner of expressing ourselves may be a seeker’s inspiration to explore and learn further, or it may very well be the drive which pushes him or her away, meandering lost on winding and confusing roads that lead not to salvation, but to a complete separation from God and his Holy Church.

Again, and in closing, If there is no joy in your witness, what then would compel me to follow you along your professed “path”?

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Psalm 83

[In the ninth hour (3pm / 15:00) of the Daily Office, Psalm 83 is prayed or sung]

How lovely is Your dwelling place, 
Lord, God of hosts.

My soul is longing and yearning, 
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy to God,
the living God.

The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by Your altars,
Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

They are happy who dwell in Your house,
forever singing Your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in You,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

As they go through the Bitter Valley
they make it a place of springs 
-the autumn rain covers it with blessings.

They walk with ever-growing strength,
they will see the God of gods in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn Your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of Your annointed.

One day within Your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
The threshold of the house of God
I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked. 

For the Lord God is a rampart, a shield;
He will give us His favor and glory.
The Lord will not refuse any good
to those who walk without blame. 

Lord, God of hosts, happy are those who trust in You!