We are challenged by a Gospel that points us to those in most need

By Harry Hagopian
March 28, 2013

When people talk about Christians who hail from an Orthodox or Catholic background, the temptation at times here in the Protestant-influenced West (but not so much in other parts of the world) is to suppose that these are men and women who are not necessarily Scripture-based in their faith - and therefore somehow ‘not Christian enough’.

In other words, and unlike perhaps larger numbers of those labelled Evangelical Christians, the presumption is that they cannot - or do not - base their faith on the Word. This might well be true in the sense that they do not usually quote chapter and verse from the Bible with the same readiness or ease, and believe instead that their faith is as much one of witness and service (the lived words) as it is one of the word as text.

However, this does not mean that Orthodox Christians do not read the Bible, learn from it and become inspired (filled by the Spirit) through it. The last Sunday of the Lenten season just passed is referred to in the Armenian Orthodox Church as the Sunday of Advent. So we tend to read from St Matthew’s Gospel. In the face of the huge issues we face as Christians in the world today, Matthew chapter 25 is worthy of particular attention right now, as it really holds a most powerful and challenging message for us all:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory … before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats… To those on his right he said, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’."

As we face Easter, do we qualify to pass this test, no matter which wing of Christianity we profess to come from? Hopefully Lent has been a time in which we have been enabled to ask ourselves this question, to think about the larger body of Christ of which we are part, and to pray for an answer.

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© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK), Ecumenical consultant to the Primate of Armenian Church in UK & Ireland, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net Follow him on Twitter here: @harryhagopian

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