Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
autumn in Hudson, Ohio 2018
Malankara World Journal Monthly
Theme: Great Lent Weeks 1 to 5, Parables
Volume 9 No. 511 March 2019

V. General Weekly Features

Family: Wives, This 'Harmless' Sin Isn't So Harmless

by Sarah Coleman

It started with Calvin Klein underwear models. Then came the books, the movies, the objectification, and even restaurants where you can be served by shirtless men in tiny shorts.

I'm talking about having a good look at a guy who is not your husband.

You probably think it's harmless. Most people do. Most people think there is nothing wrong with admiring God's creation of perfect male physique.

"Oh, it's just a little eye candy while I work out."

But it's not harmless.

It's not innocent.

It is wrong.

I'll start by pulling out the big guns - the Ten Commandments:

“You must not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14 NLT)

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17 NLT)

I'll come back to the seventh commandment, but let's be clear on the tenth: admiring the body of a man who is not your husband is coveting. It is desiring something at does not belong to you. So when you ogle the eye-candy at the gym it's not innocent, it's sin.

I think the tenth commandment in the King James Version highlights my point perfectly:

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:17 KJV)

Now let's deal with the adultery part, because you could be thinking, "I'm just having a look. There's nothing wrong with that."

I was a youth pastor for 10 years and in those 10 years, there was a passage of Scripture I got to know relatively well when speaking to young people about godly relationships:

“But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 NLT)

This is full on. And it's in red so they are the words of Jesus. If you look at someone with lust, it is sin. If you see a hot guy and your mind begins to wonder what it would be like to touch said specimen, that’s lust. Sin.

"But when I look at a sexy man and appreciate his body, it's not lust."

Oh, yeah? So what would you call it?

Okay, so you still aren't convinced checking out other men is sinful? After all, you and I don't live under the Old Covenant of the Ten Commandments, we live under grace. So you say, I can look at a man and fantasize about him and it's all under grace in the New Covenant.

This is what Paul said - you know Paul, the guy who invented grace doctrine:

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT)

Sure, you can leer all you like at a man you aren't married to - because you can do anything - but is it beneficial?

(If your first thought was, "You bet it's beneficial," I recommend you take another look at what I said about lust.)

Is it beneficial to your husband? Is it beneficial to your marriage?

Now I could follow a whole heap of scenarios of why such behavior would not benefit you, your husband or your marriage. I'm sure you can come up with a few hypotheticals of your own. Instead, let's talk about what is beneficial.

Support benefits your husband.

“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:22 MSG)

You husband needs your support. He needs you to think he is the hottest man in the world. He needs you to love him fiercely and with your whole heart, not a heart prone to wander. Understand how hard he works for your family. That's why he can't get to the gym as often as he would like. He is putting you first. Why not do the same for him?

Virtue benefits your marriage.

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” (Proverbs 31:10-11 NLT)

Virtue is a word absent from our vernacular. It is to be morally excellent and one who steals herself only for her husband.

So he's got a dad gut. So he's not the irresistible hunk he used to be but he's the man you married. He is the man you vowed to love.

Like Job, perhaps it's time to make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1) and keep them focused on the Lord and your incredible husband. That's virtuous.

Fearing God benefits you.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” (Proverbs 31:30 NLT)

Flirtation, bulging muscles, and an inviting smile do not last. What does last is the fear of God. Forget charming your way through life; pure love for God is far more attractive. Be a woman with a heart set apart for the Lord, determined to please and bring Him glory.

You are not of this world (John 17:16). You don't follow their customs (Romans 12:2). Covenant with your eyes and keep them holy. Honor God. Honor your husband. And stop believing there is such a thing as a “harmless” sin.

About The Author:

Sarah Coleman is an Australian wife, mother and Senior Pastor.


What Makes a True Gentleman

By Alex Green

I've always enjoyed Oscar Wilde's comedy An Ideal Husband. But New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is out to help women find the genuine item.

In a column, she shared the wisdom of Father Pat Connor, a Catholic priest with several decades of experience as a marriage counselor.

Too many women marry badly, he says, because infatuation trumps judgment. (I'm sure plenty of men have their own complaints, but today is Ladies' Day.)

Father Conner advises women not to marry a man who has no friends, who is controlling or irresponsible with money, who is overly attached to his mother, or who has no sense of humor. He lists so many qualities to avoid, in fact, that one woman responded despairingly that he'd "eliminated everyone."

The column generated a hailstorm of letters to the editor, including one from a Ms. Susan Striker of Easton, Connecticut. The twice-divorced woman insisted that Father Conner had only scratched the surface. She warned women:

  • Never marry a man who yells at you in front of his friends.
  • Never marry a man who is more affectionate in public than in private.
  • Never marry a man who notices all of your faults but never notices his own.
  • Never marry a man whose first wife had to sue him for child support.
  • Never marry a man who corrects you in public.
  • Never marry a man who sends birthday cards to his ex-girlfriends.
  • Never marry a man who doesn't treat his dog nicely.
  • Never marry a man who is rude to waiters.
  • Never marry a man who doesn't love music.
  • Never marry a man whose plants are all dead.
  • Never marry a man your mother doesn't like.
  • Never marry a man your children don't like.
  • Never marry a man who hates his job.

And so on…

Reading this laundry list, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

Clearly, this was the voice of experience. And it made me think what, if anything, I could tell my own daughter to keep her from making a big mistake someday.

Of course, Hannah is only 17 now. But I already identify with comedian Bill Engvall. On one episode of his sitcom, he told his teenage daughter – to her utter mortification – that her date honking the horn out front needed to come inside and meet her parents first.

He does. But before the boy leaves, Engvall pulls him into another room and says, "That's my only daughter right there and she is precious to me. So if you've got any ideas about making out or hooking up or whatever you call it these days, I just want you to know… I don't mind going back to prison."

I know more than a few fathers who can identify with that sentiment.

But the problem with the "never marry a man…" list is that it approaches the notion of an ideal man from a purely negative context.

Rather than telling my daughter what to beware of, I've only recommended that she marry "a gentleman." But then what, exactly, is a gentleman in this day and age?

British born American writer Oliver Herford once remarked that a gentleman is someone "who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally." (This is always said with an emphasis on the word unintentionally so the listener understands that it's okay if the recipient is deserving.)

But here's a bit more specificity from John Walter Wayland, who defined the term in 1899:

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.

Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Perhaps the best thing for single men and women to do would be to cultivate these qualities of character in themselves. This would make them worthy of the affections of their ideal mate, should they have the good fortune to encounter him or her.

One final thought. You may remember Dr. Randy Pausch – the author of The Last Lecture – who succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 47 seven years ago this month.

He, too, struggled with this question and left behind this time capsule of advice for his daughter Chloe, then 2:

"When men are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."

Pretty good advice. And not a bad way of sizing up people generally.

[Ed Note: Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters, and Beyond Wealth, that show you how to lead a "rich" life during trying economic times.]

Source: ETR

The Church and the Family

by Fr. Joseph J. Allen

There are many sociologists and psychologists who say today that the family, as the basic structure of our society, is disappearing. At the worst, it could mean that the family as that basic unit is unnecessary. This the Church will forever fight. At the best, it could mean that the family has undergone a tremendous change from what that word "family" has traditionally meant in the Christian perspective. This the Church would he foolish not to recognize.

But before we can say another word we must first establish that the family must be the main concern of the Church. This is so because Christianity has always been concerned for individuals-for the whole man" and how he lives- that is, how each individual adjusts to the world as a fully integrated person, who is capable of realizing the full potential of his physical, spiritual and intellectual capacity. The Church must see to this because every person deserves this opportunity as a child of God.

The Church begins her responsibility for the whole family phase by binding two Christians through the Sacrament of Marriage, and these ties, the Churches teach us, are not broken, even by death. This is why the Church uses her great power of memory in her Liturgy-to always reunite the family ..And, of course, for the Church we are all her family. It is from this beginning that all phases of family life are seen: we are born into this world, baptized, married and we leave this world via the Church. It is therefore because the family remains for the Church the way in which all men fit into this life, that every alert pastor and every alert Christian must ask himself two questions:

1. What has happened to the American family-what are the forces which have caused this great trouble in family life?

2. What is it that the Church must do?

In answering the first question- what are those forces-we must realize that there are many but we can see them all by looking at the greatest two forces today which include all the others. The first is the great affluence in which we are drown today. The second is the relativistic approach to life which removes all absolutes and says "it all depends" and "anything goes." When we look at this great affluence in which youthful families are born, we find that they cannot even remember hard times. These young families, of which I include myself, have romped through a world where, no matter how rigorously their parents had to fight for an economic foothold, they themselves have been conditioned by security. How many of our middle socio-economic families have a need of food, or clothing, or education. They have been fed fluoride and vitamins; they have been immunized and vaccinated. Specialists remove tonsils and pull teeth-one specialist for the right side of your mouth- another for the left! Today it is many, instead of few-as it used to be-who have made in through college and-finally they have Medicare to secure their future. In this affluence we can have everything now and pay for it later-young couples buy houses on credit, they vacation and entertain on their expense accounts. In other words, what used to be the quality of thrift is associated with something tight or miserly-it is simply no longer looked upon as a virtue.

But don't misunderstand me. Affluence need not be bad in itself. But it needs some absolutes-and this is where the Church is needed. Unfortunately, along with this affluence we have a theory which says everything is relative-and this is the second great danger to the family. The generation before us had their depression and their war and they had a definite social approval or disapproval for what they did.

Extramarital sex, however more or less there was of it-was simply not publically condoned. Marijuana to the youth was still something distant. And the book "Lady Chatterley's Lover" was still the most scandalous reading. In short, society was able to take a stand-it didn't have to be as vague, as cosmopolitan and as relativistic as it does today.

And so what is the outcome of these two great forces on the family? Primarily, they have led to a man-centered satisfaction. The best example of this is this great passion for privacy! There was a time when nothing was thought of it even if a grandfather or grandmother lived with us. But today the suburban family is almost neurotic. They say today, "I don't need anybody." They build the highest fences around their homes and "don't anybody mind my business." Above all, they are told when they marry, "Don't let your parents live with you." The young American marrieds would rather rent a trailer or pitch a tent to escape the company of their in-laws. Meanwhile from all this good advice, we have 800,000 divorces and 300,000 children tragically involved. And, of course, because everything is relative, premarital sex and marital promiscuity are totally accepted as something "natural" and "relative" to the situation that you are in. You know the story-if you love the person at the time-sexual relations are acceptable. They somehow manage to separate what is truthful and good from what is love and they cannot be separated. It is even accepted by some voices of the clergy who say that we must have this "freedom" as they write in the pages of Playboy magazine. And of course Hollywood has helped in this dying image. It has reached a new moral low in film production-the main feature are no longer the story-it now glamorizes prostitution and homosexuality and nudity and gutter language.

And so it is from the unguided affluence and an unlimited relativism that we move to the results-to a family situation which is indeed different than what the Church creates at marriage. Is it any wonder that they say the family is dying?

But if I were to stop now I would leave you with nothing but the problem. This is the second part of that question-What is the Church to do? I do not have the answer-all but I do know this-if the Church and its pastors do not attempt to find solutions to these many problems, they are failing to fulfill the greatest of their challenges-to love through concern for their people.

Now everybody talks about the Church being relevant today-this is where it is first relevant-when it recognizes its spiritual calling, its message and its mission to its people. But Christian families just don't happen. They need the guidance which will declare what the absolutes are -what is right and what is wrong- and the Church can begin by bringing its people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It must not be a question of Church law- what the Church says-it is how her people live-it is your life-style. It is time for parents not only to say what is Christian but to live as Christian. Instead of sending their children to Church, they must take them, and taking them is not enough if the first thing they do as they leave Church is to curse their nearest relative or cheat on their job- or teach your child to love while you hate! It is a time for parents to take Religious Education seriously-there must be a tremendous move to be consistent between what we say and what we do. You know the most important thing about a funeral is not how you dress. In other words, there is no longer room for hypocrisy!

But for the Church, we must remember that no lasting change in society was ever reached without first changing the hearts of men: We as pastors must change the hearts of our people before any of these changes can occur.

And so every specific answer to every specific problem that faces the family-and there are many-depends on this change of heart-this real love at the grass roots. A WORD magazine article entitled "I am Christ," made the right point. He spoke of the basis of love and concern and this is where it all starts. It is only this kind of real love from the Church which will draw the remnants of a losing family into a strong family. And it is only when the family can turn to the Church and when the Church, in turn, is ready to answer their needs, through its pastors, that such a relationship can be established.

Now I have mentioned the forces which have shaped the contemporary and often tragic family, and I have tried to show how the Church must react. Now I would like to make one final point; and it is this: the painful truth tells us that all who need this help are not outside of the Church. These problems are not limited to other than those in our family-nor are they limited to non-Orthodox. The Orthodox family-no matter what nationality-is no longer the "ghetto-type" family-it must learn to survive in the contemporary American pluralistic culture and still remain Orthodox. Some of the families with the most trying problems come to worship right beside you. It is to them that the pastor must "go" as Christ did amongst the sinners, not as a fence-sitter, but to say what is right and what is wrong. And not because they have more precious souls because they are my parishioners. But because they too must "convert." To be a Christian is not something that you are born into-it is something that you become-and we are always in this state of becoming Christian. So we must convert our own people first, and that may be a very new and perhaps strange thought to some of us. But this is a conversion from doubt and fear to hope and life.

And if we fail here, we fail completely and then they are right-then the family will have no meaning-then the propaganda of Madison Avenue will form their values instead of the Church.

Finally, it is the Church, like Christ, who comes to minister and who comes to serve. This is the basis of all that Christ gave to us and because of this, the Church must engender a style of life which indeed ministers to the problems, to the doubts and to the sufferings of the family-and indeed to the whole world of our time.

Fr. Joseph Allen is Pastor of St. Anthony's Church, Bergenfield, NJ.

Source: Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

What should be the order of priorities in our family
Question: "What should be the order of priorities in our family?"

Answer: The Bible does not lay out a step-by-step order for family relationship priorities. However, we can still look to the Scriptures and find general principles for prioritizing our family relationships. God obviously comes first: Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” All of one’s heart, soul, and strength is to be committed to loving God, making Him the first priority.

If you are married, your spouse comes next. A married man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Christ’s first priority—after obeying and glorifying the Father—was the church. Here is an example a husband should follow: God first, then his wife. In the same way, wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). The principle is that a woman’s husband is second only to God in her priorities.

If husbands and wives are second only to God in our priorities, and since a husband and wife are one flesh (Ephesians 5:31), it stands to reason that the result of the marriage relationship—children—should be the next priority. Parents are to raise godly children who will be the next generation of those who love the Lord with all their hearts (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4), showing once again that God comes first. All other family relationships should reflect that.

Deuteronomy 5:16 tells us to honor our parents so that we may live long and so things will go well with us. No age limit is specified, which leads us to believe that as long as our parents are alive, we should honor them. Of course, once a child reaches adulthood, he is no longer obligated to obey them (“Children, obey your parents...”), but there is no age limit to honoring them. We can conclude from this that parents are next in the list of priorities after God, our spouses, and our children. After parents comes the rest of one's family (1 Timothy 5:8).

Following one’s extended family in the list of priorities are fellow believers. Romans 14 tells us not to judge or look down upon our brothers (v. 10) or do anything to cause a fellow Christian to “stumble” or fall spiritually. Much of the book of 1 Corinthians is Paul’s instructions on how the church should live together in harmony, loving one another. Other exhortations referring to our brothers and sisters in Christ are “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13); “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32); “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11); and “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Finally comes the rest of the world (Matthew 28:19), to whom we should bring the gospel, making disciples of Christ.

In conclusion, the scriptural order of priorities is God, spouse, children, parents, extended family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and then the rest of the world. While sometimes decisions must be made to focus on one person over another, the goal is to not be neglecting any of our relationships. The biblical balance is allowing God to empower us to meet all of our relationship priorities, inside and outside our families.

My Greatest Life Lesson

by John O'Leary

My greatest life lesson to date - the one that impacts everything I do, every relationship I have, every choice I make - is this:

Fear and love are the two great motivators. While fear suffocates, love liberates.

Today, I'm sharing about a time when I learned how and WHY to choose LOVE over fear. No, not sappy, Hallmark-card love. And actually, not even romantic love. Just pure, unabashed love – for your neighbor, child, spouse, friend, colleague, barista, fellow man. Love, the greatest motivator in life.

The first time I met Beth’s family, I received advice I’ll never forget.

It was nearly Christmas and we were ushering in the holidays with a large family party.

Beth and I had been dating for just a couple months, and it was time to meet her family.

There were several dozen uncles, aunts, and cousins. The gathering was loud, full of laughter, food, drink, and good cheer. I felt at home immediately.

Near the end of the party I met one of Beth's uncles. Though an older man, he still had a square jaw, buzz cut, large, powerful hands, and a spark of mischief in his eyes.

We were standing in his house, near the kitchen table, laden with food.

He leaned over to grab another cookie, took a bite, then said, “Do you know what I do when I meet someone for the first time, John?”

No, sir. Tell me. “Well, John, I always turn sideways.”

He turned sideways.

“I cock my left hand.”

He made a tight fist.

“That way I am ready in case the person tries to swing at me. I can swing, hit him first, and drop him.”

There was an awkward silence.

“Do you understand?”

He kept eating the cookie as I nodded yes. Eyeing that left fist of his, I asked. So, you’re saying, sir, that every time you meet someone for the first time you’re ready for a fight?

“That’s right. And I’d drop him to the ground. There would be nothing he could do about it. Just nothing he could do about it.”

If we dwell in a place of fear, we'll never go anywhere.

Now he wasn’t sharing this statement as a way to intimidate me, but instead as some advice he considered valuable.

He was an amazing man and we miss his sweetness and idiosyncrasies.

But he grew up in a tough neighborhood, lived during the Depression, had fought in a war, and the residue of those experiences shaped every new encounter he faced.

Can you imagine going through life that way? Can you imagine every time you meet someone making a fist getting ready to throw down? Can you imagine every time you shake someone’s hand you have your left hand clinched ready to swing?

It’s outrageous.

But while we may laugh at this story, most of us are more like him than we’d like to admit.

We occasionally start our day with our fists clinched ready to throw down. We sometimes greet others with our shields up, masks on, prepared for war. We can become used to greeting adversity and opportunity, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the sunshine and the rainstorms—not with an open heart on fire with love, but with one frozen shut by fear.

Now, fear can be a good thing.

We should fear touching something hot, letting someone down, a hungry lion. In my faith, even the fear of God is a good thing as it propels believers away from something destructive and toward something life-giving.

Fear is part of our human experience and necessary for our survival. The goal, though, is not to stay in a fear-based mentality. If we dwell in a place of fear, we’ll never get anywhere...

Let me reiterate that last line: If we dwell in a place of fear, we’ll never get anywhere. Want an actionable way to choose LOVE over fear in your life today? Listen to my most recent Live Inspired Podcast #125 here to get practical tips on how to choose love and strengthen your relationships with keen insights from psychologist, professor and co-founder of eHarmony Dr. Les Parrott.

Sometimes we greet others with shields up, prepared for war. Today, choose instead to greet adversity and opportunity, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the sunshine and the rainstorms with an open heart on fire with love.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.
John O'Leary

This is an excerpt from my #1 National Bestselling book ON FIRE

What's the greatest hope of heaven?

by Senior Living Ministries

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
1 Thessalonians 4:17

New Testament scholar A.M. Hunter relates a story in one of his books about a dying man who asked his Christian doctor to tell him about the place he was heading. His doctor fumbled a moment for the right words, and then heard a scratching at the door.

"You hear that?" he asked his patient. "That's my dog. I left him downstairs and he's come up because he heard my voice. He has no idea what's inside this door, but he knows that I am here. Isn't it the same with you? You don't know what lies beyond the Door, but you know that your Master is there."

When it comes to what heaven will be like, there's much more we don't know than we do. But one thing is for sure: our Master is there. And because of that, everything else is incidental. What makes heaven heaven is the fact that we'll be with God forever!

That is our greatest hope of heaven. Yes, it will be great when there's no more pain, no more tears, and no more sorrow. But the greatest thing about heaven is that we'll exist forever in the very presence of our Heavenly Master!

Prayer Challenge

Pray that God would renew your hope in the life to come because you'll be with Him forever!

Questions for Thought

Imagine your life with no pain and no sorrow. How does the thought make you feel?

Now, how does it make you feel that an eternity in God's presence will be even greater than having no pain or sorrow?

Source: Daily Living for Seniors


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