A common argument I see against me is that I’ve gone “too far” with my relatively new Christian faith. Instead of following the clear teachings of Jesus Christ, I should instead seek “balance” with the “middle path” where I only moderately sin to “enjoy” the pleasures of life since I’m a “biological” animal with “natural” sexual needs. Needless to say but this line of argument always comes from non-Christians who are so far away from God that witnessing just a little bit of faith causes them alarm.
Last year while visiting with my mother, I maintained a basic daily prayer rule. She does not pray as frequently as I do, so she was at first startled by my behavior, explaining that no one in her immediate family prays like that. No one in her family prays at all, so yes, I can understand how my minimum prayer rule is startling.
I attempt to attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday unless I’m physically unable to do so. I’ve been told, “You know, you don’t have to go every week.” I know, but if my church has a service every week, it’s not just for their sake. Already, with just my daily prayer and weekly church attendance, I’m “very religious” to someone who lacks faith. Compared to the many holy men I’ve met across the country, however, I’m not even in the minor leagues of holiness.
To walk with Christ means to be concerned about your salvation. As Christians we are encouraged to sanctify our souls to prepare for the next life. This means turning away from all sin—fornication, lust, greed, pride, gluttony, and so on. I was addicted to fornication, and through God’s grace, I was able to stop it. Masturbation is never acceptable, since it’s a form of self-abuse, and I don’t intend to have sex again unless I get married. “You’ve gone off the deep end! You’ve gone from one extreme to the next!” To the faithless, chastity is extreme. To men of the world, following the basic commandments of Christianity is fanatical.
I follow only the absolute minimum of Christianity. I’m not going above and beyond and I’m not inventing my own rules. Praying daily, corporate worship (in church), and avoiding sin is Christianity 101, and for people to attack that shines a light on the darkness they allow to enter into their own lives. If someone thinks abstaining from fornication is extreme, we know what they treasure. If someone thinks taking twenty minutes out of the day to glorify God through prayer is too much, we know the sort of distractions and entertainments that occupy their mind. If someone thinks spending two hours with fellow Christians on Sunday is excessive, we know how actively their worship at the altar of sportsball, brunch, hangovers, and gossip.
As our creator, God knows what is best for us. Through scripture He wrote the instruction manual for our lives and enlightened some men to teach that scripture to us. The only rightful balance is striving with all our being to follow it. The men who tell me to seek balance, to avoid the “extreme” of Christianity think they are in balance, but through their separation from God, they are in communion with evil and are facing judgement.
It’s surely possible to go extreme as a Christian. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church attack everyone, even fellow Christians, through intense pride and anger. Other Christians distort the Gospel to state that God wants us to experience material blessings, and they end up worshiping mammon on a mad dash to becoming rich. Other Christians may call for violence against those who are not even obstructing their faith, and it’s not uncommon for someone to invent their own brand of Christianity by picking and choosing which rules they want to follow, but as an Armenian Orthodox Christian, I wish I was able to pray more. I wish that I lived near a monastery and could attend more than one service a week. I wish I had a spiritual father who could help guide me through rough spots in life. My prayer rule and church attendance amount to only 4% of my total time, yet to someone who devotes 0% of their time to Christ, my feeble 4% puts me on the same level as ISIS.
In the end, you’re either falling towards God or falling towards Satan. If you look at a man who is performing the absolute minimum as asked by his Creator and think he’s extreme, it would be worth examining yourself and the vices you hold tight. As the Western world descends into greater levels of chaos and evil, just a flash of faith will be shocking, a single prayer will be extreme. In such a world then maybe I really am an extremist.
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