Honoring our fellow Christians by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Beloved Christians, I cannot wonder enough at the goodness of God and His compassionate love for us men; and contemplating this, I cannot but exclaim with the Prophet, "O Lord, what is man, that Thou art made known unto him? Or the son of man, that Thou takest account of him?" (LXX-Ps. 143:3 [KJV-Ps. 144:3]), when I consider what honor the Lord has granted man! The honor and nobility which God bestows on men who are true Christians is so great and so high that it is impossible not only to describe it or to explain it in words, but even to comprehend it with the mind. "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9), says the true Apostle of Christ.

From what can we see the incomprehensible goodness and compassionate love of God toward man? Let us but look and set the honor and nobility of a Christian before our inward eyes, that we may be zealous for it and seek it out with eagerness. Open then, the hearing of your souls, and you shall hear a word told about true Christians.

1. They are called and truly are the children of God. What is more glorious to man than this name? The Apostle of Christ rightly wonders at this and with wonder he says to Christians, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God?" (1 Jn. 3:1-2), and so we are. Whence Christians also pray to God as to their Father and raise up to the one voice to Him, "Our Father, Who art in the heavens" (Mt. 6:9) and the rest.

O the wonder! Sinners say to the All-Holy God, "Our Father!" O our great nobility and honor and consolation. O beloved Christians! The Father of the OnlyBegotten Son of God is our Father, His God is our God, as He Himself says to our great consolation, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" (Jn. 20:17).

2. True Christians have a close union and fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle of Christ assures us of this saying, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn. 1:3). How great this is you can see for yourself.

People account it a great thing to have friendship and fellowship with an earthly king; how incomparably greater is the privilege of having fellowship and friendship with God, Who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and abides in light unapproachable! O how much have God's goodness and love toward man wrought! Look, O Christian, and you shall see the nobility and merit of Christians. They have communion with the great and incomprehensible God.

God, Thy goodness is multiplied and wonderful, and Thy love for us fallen and poor men is beyond any words and conceiving!

3. In true Christians as in spiritual temples, God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, abides with love. The Lord says of this, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode in him" (Jn. 14:23). What can be more honorable and noble than that soul in which the Tri-hypostatic God abides with grace and love? It is a glorious thing for people to receive an earthly king into their house; it is incomparably more glorious to receive the Heavenly King into the house of their soul, and to have Him living therein. What also could be more blessed than that soul in which God lives as in a temple? The paradise of sweetness and joy, the Kingdom of God is in it. O blessedness! O the worthiness! O the nobility of the Christian soul! God, a Being that is without beginning, without end, supremely good, and uncreated, wills to live in the holy Christian soul rather than in heaven or in any other temple.

O most good and lovely God, our Maker and Creator, come and visit our weary souls, the souls created by Thee after Thine image and likeness!

4. True Christians are spiritual members of the most heavenly Head, Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Apostle says concerning this, "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5:30).

Holy Christian souls! raise up your eyes and see where your Head is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father. By whom is He venerated and worshipped? By angels and archangels and by all the hosts of heaven and by every creature. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" (Philip. 2:9-10). You are members of this most exalted Head. As the Head is glorified, so also do His members partake of His glory. This is the glory of true Christians, this is their nobility and merit! They are the spiritual members of the most exalted Head, Jesus Christ.

5. The souls of true Christians are betrothed to the immortal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. The Apostle bears witness of this: "I have espoused you," O Christians, "to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). "This is a great mystery" (Eph. 5:32). As the Bridegroom is glorious, so also does His bride partake of His glory. What is more honorable and noble than Jesus the Son of God? What is more noble and honorable than a Christian soul betrothed to Him?

6. True Christians are "heirs of God," and "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Theirs are the eternal and heavenly Kingdom and all good things. "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 Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). These and others are the names and titles that the Holy Spirit attributes to true Christians. Behold, then, O listeners, the glory and nobility of the Christian. All the glory of this world is nothing compared to it. Confess, therefore, that there is nothing more noble and glorious than a true Christian. Jesus Christ the Son of God, has earned this nobility and glory for us by His suffering and death, His Heavenly Father bestows it on us. The Holy Spirit perfects it, and true repentance combined with faith receives it. This nobility and glory are acquired or is lost here in this world. They are acquired by true repentance and faith; they are lost by unrepentance and unbelief.

O you who seek the vain glory of this world and are praised and exalted in your nobility, names, and titles! Turn your inward eyes to the glory and honor of a Christian and seek those, that you may truly be noble and glorious. The glory of true Christians is not now manifest, but can only be attained and known by faith. It shall be opened in the revelation of the children of God. Beloved, says the Apostle, "now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him" (1 Jn. 3:2). "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mt. 13:43).

from: Journey to Heaven Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004.