We believe that the connection of the man with God does not
break after death; that even beyond the grave the soul, loving God and having
preserved faithfulness to Him, will be living in great joy of constant communication
with God. And we believe that communication with God in the greatest measure
includes the entire joy and happiness, accessible to a human being.
But are not right those, who say that the
Christian faith is mercenary, that we believe in God and serve to Him from the
fear of death and those calamities, which death can cause us, and because of
selfish hope for the blissful reward, which God will give to us for serving to
Him in our lives?
But this is, of course, not so.
All the Christian teachers, who touched upon this
problem, say that serving to God from fear of hell or thirst for the heavenly
reward is unworthy of a Christian. Abba Dorotheus, the ancient worshipped
teacher of monks, says that to serve to God because of fear is the state of a slave,
to serve for a reward is the state of a hireling, and only to serve to God out
of the feeling of filial love for Him is the authentic Christian mood, the only
worthy state of a child of God.
If the Christianity was based on the fear of hell
and on the expectance of the heavenly reward, then in the teaching of Christ,
and in the apostolic sermon it would have been said much more about both the
Meanwhile, both the Gospel and the Epistles
mention amazingly little about it. The Lord only in brief recalls of the
eternal torture, awaiting the devil and his angels, to which will be sent off
the unrepentant sinners, and about the eternal joyful life, waiting for the
righteous, but not giving the detailed description of the heavenly beatitudes.
The Apostle, talking about that, only in brief repeats the words of the Old
Testament Prophet: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered
into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love
Of course, such brevity of the Lord and His
apostles concerning the heavenly life comes out of the fact that in reality it
is impossible to describe in our human language and to understand with our
three-dimensional consciousness the conditions of the other, immaterial being.
But out of this brevity, almost silence of the Gospel about the details of the
heavenly life we can draw a conclusion, that the appeal for faith and righteous
life is not based on it.
The main promise of the Lord for everybody, loving
Him and believing in Him, are His words: "I will come again, and
receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:3).
Certainly, expectations of such a reward cannot be called as hiring. This is
the manifestation of love. For only the one, who loves, appreciates to be
there, where is the one, whom he loves. And if a Christian serves to God in
order to be with Him in eternity, then he is not a hireling but a child of God.
Nevertheless, the Holy history knows the examples
of the more elevated serving to God, when the people, devoted to Him and loving
Him limitlessly, were ready to denounce their happiness to be with Him and
condemn themselves to the torture of being away from Him, for the sake of
fulfilling His tasks. This way, St. Prophet Moses, asking from God forgiveness
to his people, exclaimed: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and
if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
The same way Apostle Paul says: "For I could wish that myself were
accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
This way the limitlessly loving person can sometimes denounce the most precious
happiness of communicating with the one, whom he loves, if it is for the good
of his beloved. This is the elevated self-denial.
But let us not mix the most holy self-denial of
righteous Moses and Apostle Paul with the readiness of a sinner to sacrifice
his salvation, i.e. the future communication with God, for the sake of these or
those sinful pleasures. In the first example, love for God and devotion to His
teaching pours over the brim, and in the second — there is indifference towards
God and to the own soul. So, the refusal of the loving mother of the happiness
of being together with the loved child, when it is for the good, cannot be
compared with the criminal indifference of parents to the unloved children.
So, not of the trepidation caused by hell, not of
the mercenary desire to earn the blessedness in heaven, a Christian serves to
God. But, serving to Him because of love for Him, a Christian knows that the
Lord, in the infinite measure responding to love with love, will not leave the
soul, devoted to Him, in the abandoned state, but will call it to Him on His
word: "Where I am, there shall also my servant be."
A bride, marrying not because of love for her
bridegroom, but on the strife for becoming rich, is bad. But if she longs for
her bridegroom because of love, and at the same time, knowing of his wealth and
loving nature, is sure of her future happiness, then this is natural and good.
Such must be, on the Church teaching, the attitude of a true Christian to his
To this must be added, that the words of Christ
about the eternal bliss and eternal tortures are necessary for those, who still
are far from God. These appeals are necessary in those cases, when the fear of
torture can stop the soul, ready to commit an evil act, or the thirst for
eternal bliss will make the sleeping soul wake for obtaining the eternal
In its upbringing of human souls the Church has
aspirations, so that its children could have as a goal not only the salvation
from tortures and gaining the state of blessedness, but first of all, the
acquisition of the Divine love, so that not for anything else but for the sake
of God, the Christian soul could long for Him, knowing that there where He is,
there is the heavenly joy.
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