Dear Rick, Dear Kirk,
As ever, we are in Kirk's debt for the insights offered from the Syriac tradition; there is in it a true generosity that manifests itself in the compassion with which it responds to those who will receive it.
How often do we meet other Christians who seek from the faith validation for their own preferences and lifestyle, and who then respond with some hurt hostility when those from another tradition fail to do that? Our western liberal society has raised 'tolerance' into the most desirable virtue; but even it will not 'tolerate' those opinions which fall foul of its liberal bias. So should it be surprising that the Church which Christ founded also has to exclude those who preach 'another gospel'? If we read St. Paul to the Galatians, especially his first epistle, we see an evangelist writing in the white heat of inspiration, but also of indignation that those he had brought to the Faith had so swiftly fallen into error. Galatians 1:9 can be shocking to modern ears and eyes:
Quote:As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
But we can compare that with the tone of the dispute with St. Peter over eating with the Gentiles (2:11-13). St. Peter accepted the reproof and did not try to reprove St. Paul's teaching. Instead, as we know from Acts, the dispute was taken to the Church and decided in council at Jerusalem.
The blessed Apostles themselves show us here two things surely? One is that there were disputes between them from the very start; the second is how such disputes should be conducted.
How easy it would have been for St. Peter, who had known Christ personally and had been so close to Him, to have turned on this upstart ex-persecutor who claimed to have had some private revelation and told him to keep quiet. How easy it would have been for St. Paul, in the white heat of his dramatic conversion, to have dismissed Peter, James and the others as rustic conservatives who could not see what he could; how easily he could have made the claim to be 'reforming' that which had already fallen into caution and corruption. Yet neither of these great Saints behaved as so many of us have done since.
Peter accepted the reproof. St. Paul worked with his fellow Christians to find a way of working together in the name of the Risen Christ. It was by their love, each for the other, that they were identified as Christ's children. Can we make that boast?
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)