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Children of the kingdom

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  • Basil Yakimov
    Children of the kingdom “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2006
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      Children of the kingdom


      “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall
      sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but
      the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there
      shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12).


      I would like to focus your prayerful attention on these two verses from the
      Gospel.


      Who are these “children of the kingdom” who shall be cast out into outer
      darkness? In church parlance, “outer darkness” refers to the state of hell,
      both before and after passing from this life.


      In order for the concept of the children of the kingdom to become clearer
      to us, I will remind you of the following event in the life of St. Seraphim
      of Sarov. The saint once said about two abbesses, that they were not nuns,
      but black cinders, and that they would not inherit the heavenly kingdom.
      Being clairvoyant, he was able to see the state of their souls, their inner
      make-up, and that these abbesses were unworthy of such a high rank. But St.
      Seraphim would not have said this to anybody, had it not brought benefit to
      them.


      Thus, due to this live example, we begin to understand the Gospel better:
      it becomes clear to us that outwardly one may be worthy of respect, but
      inwardly – because of one’s spiritual make-up – one may be slated for the
      fiery Gehenna. Did those above-mentioned abbesses appoint themselves as the
      superiors of monasteries? Of course not! That means that the one who
      appointed them found them worthy of such a high rank and honor. But that
      person obviously judged only by appearance!


      In the Old Testament the “children of the kingdom” were the Jews, but in
      the New Testament in which we live, these are children of the kingdom
      through grace. These are the ones who have received the grace of holy
      baptism and other holy Christian sacraments. In other words, the children
      of grace are all of us – Christians.


      Virtues alone, without inner spiritual coordination, are not yet
      everything. For example, is not chastity sacred to us? And yet pure virgins
      were refused entrance into the heavenly bridal chamber, as we heard in the
      parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:12), and instead of the virgins it is
      the fallen women, who came to repentance as though from the west, who have
      entered the heavenly kingdom.


      Do we not highly esteem those who keep fast or who are abstinent? Even the
      Pharisee said: “I fast twice a week” (Luke 18:12). However, to them and all
      those like them the Lord replies through the prophet Isaiah: “Is it such a
      fast that I have chosen – a day for a man to afflict his soul…? Is not this
      the fast that I have chosen – to loosen the bands of wickedness… (Isaiah
      58:5-6).


      Do we not highly esteem those who are outwardly devout and spend their time
      in prayer? But of such the Lord says through the holy King David: “Let his
      prayer become sin” (Psalm 109:7).


      These are only a few examples of so-called virtue, engaged in by the
      children of the kingdom, that does not lead to salvation. According to the
      word of God, such “children of the kingdom shall be cast out…” It would not
      be surprising if people were cast out for murder, fornication, deceit,
      thievery, and other major sins, yet in this case they are being cast out
      for a supposedly virtuous life.


      Why is that?


      Only because they have engaged in virtue either hypocritically, or vainly
      and pridefully. Therefore, they shall be cast out either for hypocrisy or
      for vainglory.


      Dear brethren! Do not rely on appearances, do not judge only on the basis
      of what you see or hear! And do not think in regard to yourself that if
      everything is outwardly going well for you, then the matter of your
      salvation, i.e. your spiritual life, is in good order. Beware of receiving
      the title of “children of the kingdom” only for outward things! Outward
      rectitude and the outward orderliness of our lives according to God’s
      commandments and church canons must be accompanied by inner disposition.


      In order to make the words of the Gospel relevant to our lives, look
      carefully at those around you, and you will see many examples of tender
      Christian souls concealed behind obscure exteriors. I saw many such
      examples during the second World War, and such examples abound even now.


      Thus, let us not judge either ourselves or others by appearances. Let us
      remember that salvation begins already here on earth, and that those who
      aspire to it do not fear any earthly misfortunes, for nothing can shake
      their spiritual peace when God is with them. Amen.


      Protopriest Igor Hrebinka
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