His name was Father Michael.
He was standing at the front of quite possibly the most beautiful church sanctuaries I've ever beheld in my entire existence. He had little hair on his head, glasses, and was dressed in a long black robe. I also noted that he was wearing a wedding ring, which perplexed me a little bit, as my knowledge of Greek Orthodox beliefs is admittedly a little rusty and I only knew them to be similar to the Catholics.
We approached him as we made our way towards the front, taking in the elaborate and intricate beauty that surrounded us. As we approached the altar area, he came down from the platform and extended his hand for each of us to shake and directed the kindest smile towards us. He introduced himself as one of the fathers of the parish, and welcomed us to the church.
The next ten minutes consisted of the most confusing blend of conversation, which could be described as both absolutely nothing of consequence, and yet so incredibly mind-blowing and life-altering. We discussed the parish and the church itself, and the symbolism of the different paintings and images in reference to the church, as he put it, "a physical depiction of the Gospel". He explained the history of the immigrants that had founded the church, the demographics of the current congregation, which he described as "vibrant and appealing to all ages", and went on to inform us when the services were and casually invite us to see what the Greek Orthodox way was like "in action". We said a good-bye and asked if he minded if we photographed some of the artifacts and images,which he said was perfectly alright, and we parted ways without another word.
We had opted for more of a self-guided tour so that we could take in the sights at our leisure, but the rest of the group had decided to wait for the the tour guide to lead them through. They came into the sanctuary a few minutes after we had finished talking to the father, and a couple of them came over to talk to us. They had lagged behind the rest of the tour group and came in as people were being seated and the guide was beginning to talk.
"Are we interrupting a service?"
"No, it's just a tour and he's getting ready to talk. Even if it was, it's Christianity-based, so it's not like you'd go to Hell for sitting in or anything."
The latter of these comments was clearly said in a joking manner, but the response that followed made me cringe a little bit.
"Um, actually it's all idolatry based. It's pagan. Pagan!"
The two of them walked away, leaving with their words sending my mind spinning.
Allow me to elaborate.
We are students at a Bible college. A school which has the word "evangelism" in the title. We firmly believe that we have the truth. The whole truth. And the organization with which we are, like it or not, affiliated has the motto "The Whole Gospel. To The Whole World."
This information in mind, explain to me who in this story displayed true Christianity? The man who, in general, we would consider to be lacking of the whole truth and in need of the evangelism that we like to push so much, who expressed his religion casually with love and humility? Or the truth-bearing Christian, who passed judgment and misunderstanding without a thought and with self-righteous indignation?
The fact of the matter is that sometimes, we're so caught up in getting the message out, that we make it too hard and lose the true spirit and essence of what Christianity is all about. We're so quick to condemn those that we think are wrong, even those that we know are doing wrong according to the Word of God, that we forget exactly how to reach them. We're so caught up and adamant about their "wrongness" that we forget the one thing that will minister to the masses.
It's not that love is what will save them. It's not that love is all that they need. They need Christ. And yes, they are lost. But are they really going to be drawn to a God that condemns them, looks down on them, and criticizes their beliefs without building a valid relationship with them? Is that the God we serve?
I don't think it is.