On the Law of God 23-25

On the Law of God by St. Philaret the Confessor

by St. Philaret the Confessor

XXIII. Family and Society: Patriotism

A strong and healthy family is the first and basic unit of society and of the state. The strongest and most well organized state will come to a condition of decline and disintegration if its family unit falls apart and there are no bases of family life and upbringing. If, on the other hand, the family unit is strong and the upbringing is healthy, then in the event of a major external destruction of the forms of state life, the people remain capable of carrying on life and can re–establish the strength and unity of the state.

A Christian family must not lock itself up within itself or turn itself into a “chicken coop.” Such a life is family egoism. A person who lives in it has no interests outside his own family, does not want to know of the joys and sorrows of the surrounding world and does not serve it in any way. Such a life is not a Christian life and such a family is not a Christian family. A Christian family, as a cell or unit of society, is a part of it which is inseparably united with its whole. It actively participates in the society’s life and serves its neighbors.

According to the clear teaching of the Gospel, moreover, the living relationship of the Christian must not be locked up within the framework of the family, but must be expressed also in the framework of the national state. Christian love is pan–human. For a Christian, each person, no matter to what nation he may belong, is his neighbor whom he must love according to the commandment of the Saviour. We are clearly told this by the parable of the merciful Samaritan, and especially by its categorical conclusion. In this parable, the Saviour showed the pharisee the degree of mercy and love which the good Samaritan bestowed upon the robbed and wounded Jew –a man from a nation inimical to his own. Further He told the pharisee, “Go and do likewise.” Such is the law of Christian love.

But if we Christians are called to such an all–embracing love, then are we not compelled to accept cosmopolitanism –that teaching of the brotherhood of all people, according to which man is a “citizen of the universe,” and not of his own state? According to this teaching, mankind must become one family, without any state–national differences and divisions.

We do not doubt that the positive part of cosmopolitanism’s teaching approaches close to Christianity. It undoubtedly took its appeals for brotherhood, love and mutual help directly from Christianity. These appeals are purely Christian. It is, however, only these Christian ideas which are of value in cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism has, however, added much distorted falsehood and error to this element of truth. Because of this; its teaching has become narrowly one–sided and artificial, and thus not vital. Such errors include all the tenets of cosmopolitanism which speak against feelings of patriotism and the duty of service to the native–land, its good–estate and safety.

One can, in fact, observe that the lives of the verbose preachers of cosmopolitanism are dry and incapable of sincere, compassionate relationships. With foam at the mouth they cry about their love for mankind, but cannot love their neighbor as is necessary. Christianity does not teach this false, one–sided cosmopolitanism. Christ commanded us to have, not an artificial “love for mankind,” but real love for neighbor. For a Christian, such a neighbor is every person in general (therefore, a Christian must love everyone), and in particular, each person with whom he meets in daily life. Christian life is manifested most of all precisely in these personal encounters, in living mutual intercourse, mutual support and compassion. How distant from this is the one–sided teaching of cosmopolitanism with its appeals for an artificial “love for mankind;” a love which is removed from the realities of life.

As a child, a person’s neighbors are his parents, brothers, sisters, and other relatives. At this time, it is sufficient if one is a good, loving, responsive and dedicated member of the family. The child does not yet have vital relationships with those outside the family. Gradually growing up through childhood and adolescent years, one develops personal, vital relationships with many other people and they become “one’s own.” Good upbringing must teach the child to treat these new “neighbors” in a Christian manner –to be friendly, of good will, to have a sincere readiness to help, and to render as much service as possible. As a person matures, his horizons expand and every human being becomes one’s “neighbor,” no matter to what nation or race they may belong.

Naturally, one will love one’s own family and the relatives he grew up with, most of all, and secondly, the whole country, the people to which one belongs. One is tied to this people both by state and civil obligations and by culture and customs. One is bound to one’s people, to one’s own homeland, and one loves them. This love for homeland is that Christian patriotism which cosmopolitanists so strongly struggle against.

Christian patriotism is, of course, alien to those extremes and errors into which “super-patriots” fall. A Christian patriot, while loving his nation, does not close his eyes to its inadequacies, but soberly looks at its properties and characteristics. He will never agree with those “patriots” who are inclined to elevate and justify everything native (even national vices and inadequacies). Such “patriots” do not realize that this is not patriotism at all, but puffed–up national pride –that very sin against which Christianity struggles so strongly. No, a true patriot does not close his eyes to the sins and ills of his people; he sees them, grieves over them, struggles with them and repents before God and other peoples for himself and his nation. In addition, Christian patriotism is completely alien to hatred of other peoples. If I love my own people, then surely I must also love the Chinese, the Turks or any other people. Not to love them would be non–Christian. No, God grant them well–being and every just success.

The most important information which we find on patriotism is in the Holy Scripture. In the Old Testament, all the history of the Jewish people is filled with testimony of how the Jews loved their Sion, their Jerusalem, their temple. This was a model of true patriotism, of love for one’s people and its sacred things... The prophet Moses showed an especially striking example of love for his people. On one occasion, immediately after the concluding of the testament of God, the Israelite people betrayed their God and worshipped a golden calf. Then, the justice of God’s Truth was strongly inflamed. Moses began to pray for his people which had sinned. He remained on the mountain for forty days and forty nights in prayer. The Lord told him, “Depart from Me, do not hinder Me, that My justice be kindled on them and destroy them.”*

The great prophet began to pray even more fervently and finally exclaimed, “Forgive them their sin, and if You will not, then erase me also from Your book of life...” And the Lord hearkened to Moses. Is this not the highest struggle of self–denying patriotism?

We see a similar example in the New Testament in the life of the great Apostle Paul. No one hindered his work of preaching more wrathfully and stubbornly than did his fellow countrymen. They hated Paul and considered him to be a betrayer of the faith of their fathers. Nevertheless, the Apostle says, “I would be cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren. . .the Israelites.” From these words, we see his love for his native people. This love was so great that, like Moses, he was prepared to sacrifice even his personal, eternal salvation for the salvation of his people.

We have an example in the life of the Saviour Himself. In the Gospel we read that He came only to His own people and spoke to them first of all. On another occasion, He said, turning to Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.. .” (LK. 13:34–35). When He rode into Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosannah,” when all the people rejoiced, the Saviour wept. He did not weep for Himself, but for this, His city, and about the ruin of those who were now crying to Him, “Hosannah!” but in few days would cry, “Crucify Him!” Thus did He love His own people with a profound and moving love.

The feeling of Patriotism, therefore, is not rejected and condemned by Christianity. It does not condemn, despite the false views of cosmopolitanists, the righteousness of the pre–eminent love for one’s neighbors. We already know the words of the Apostle, “If anyone does not care for his own, and especially for his own household, he has renounced faith and is worse than an unbeliever. . .”

Once more we emphasize that such love and care must not be an egoistic, self–enclosing love. While caring for those with whom one comes into a direct contact, a Christian must never forget other people in his Christian love–his neighbors, and brothers in Christ. In conclusion, let us cite these words of Apostle Paul (from the Epistle to the Galations): “So, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those of the household of faith.”

* In these words of God, there is a remarkable testimony about the power of the prayer of a righteous person, by which he, in the bold words of St. John Chrysostom “binds God.”


Answer the following questions.

1. What is a strong healthy family?

2. What is the “chicken coop” as described in this chapter?

3. What is cosmopolitanism?

4. What is Christian patriotism?

5. What is the most important information we find on patriotism?

6. What example does Apostle Paul show us?

7. Write the last sentence here.

XXIV. Christian Service: War

Naturally, this Christian patriotism we have spoken of requires from each of us as great a service as possible to the nation. The value of such service is even more significant if it is rendered unselfishly - free of any material calculations and considerations. A person serves the country in one way or another when he participates in its life by, for example, expressing himself in the press or in civil elections, etc. In this, one must strive to bring benefit to the whole country, the whole people, and not to one’s own personal or party interests - then one’s conscience will be at peace. It may be that one will not attain great external success, but let him, nevertheless, fulfill the duty of a patriot and a faithful child of the nation in an honorable and Christian manner.

There is a saying, “In misfortune, a friend is known.” Love for the nation is most clearly manifested in times of national trials and troubles. We all know how it feels when someone close to us is ill. We do not want diversions or satisfactions. In our sorrow and concern, we sometimes cannot even eat or drink or sleep. One who truly loves one’s nation will manifest similar feelings during times of national troubles. If our heart is filled with nothing but our own personal experiences and interests, if we moan and sigh while our deeds remain far from our words, then our love for the nation is poor indeed.

One of the clearest and most self-denying struggles of service to one’s homeland is to die for the nation. A Christian soldier is a defender of the homeland, and clearly fulfils Christ’s precept, “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s brethren.”

War in itself is absolutely evil, an extremely sad phenomenon and deeply contrary to the very essence of Christianity. Words cannot express how joyous it would be if people ceased to war with one another and peace reigned on earth. Sad reality speaks quite otherwise, however. Only some dreamers far removed from reality and some narrowly one-sided sectarians can pretend that war can be omitted from real life.

It is quite correct to point out that war is a violation of the commandment, “Do not kill.” No one will argue against that. Still, we see from the Holy Scripture that in that very same Old Testament time when this commandment was given, the Israelite people fought on command from God, and defeated its enemies with God’s help. Consequently, the meaning of the commandment, “Do not kill,” does not refer unconditionally to every act of removing a person’s life. This commandment forbids killing for revenge, in anger, by personal decision or act of will. When our Saviour explained the deep meaning of this commandment, He pointed out that it forbids not only actual killing, but also un-Christian, vain anger.

Nevertheless, in a conversation with the apostles about the last days, the Lord told them, “You will hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not distressed: for all this must be.” With these words, the Lord refutes all statements that war is avoidable.

True, we have already examined the fact that war is a negative phenomenon. Yet, it will exist, sometimes as the sole defense of truth and human rights, or against seizure, brutal invasion and violence. Only such wars of defense are recognized in Christian teaching. In fact, we hear of the following event in the life of St. Athanasios of the Holy Mountain: Prince Tornikian of Georgia, an eminent commander of the Byzantine armies, was received into monasticism at St. Athanasios’monastery. During the time of the Persian invasion, Empress Zoe recalled Tornikian to command the armies. Tornikian flatly refused on the grounds that he was a monk. But St. Athanisios said to him, “We are all children of our homeland and we are obligated to defend it. Our obligation is to guard the homeland from enemies by prayers. Nevertheless, if God deems it expedient to use both our hands and our heart for the common weal, we must submit completely . . . If you do not obey the ruler, you will have to answer for the blood of your compatriots whom you did not wish to save. . .” Tornikian submitted, defeated the enemy and rescued the homeland from danger.

In a conversation with Mohammedans, about war, St. Cyril, the Enlightener of the Slavs, said, “We meekly endure personal offenses; but as a society, we defend each other, laying down our lives for our neighbors. . .”

One can, of course, sin and sin greatly while participating in war. This happens when one participates in war with a feeling of personal hatred, vengeance, or vainglory and with proud personal aims. On the contrary, the less the soldier thinks about himself, and the more he is ready to lay down his life for others, the closer he approaches to the martyr’s crown.


Complete the following statements.

1. One of the clearest and

2. War is

3. It is quite

4. We see from the O.T.

5. This commandment

6. When our Saviour

Summarize the last paragraph of Chapter 24.

XXV. Christianity and Communism

Let us now examine the question of the relationship of Christianity with Communism - more precisely, to that particular form of communism which has now appeared as an attempt to realize the ideas of socialism. This form of communism emerged in history as a sworn and bitter enemy of Christianity. For its part, Christianity recognizes it as completely alien to and inimical with itself.

The history of the Church in apostolic times reveals that, in those times, it had its own Christian communism and the faithful held everything in common, as the Acts of the Apostles says. Even now, this Christian communism exists in the form of koenobetic monasticism. Both the concept and reality of communal property is a bright, idealistically elevated type of Christian inter-relationship, examples of which have always existed in the Orthodox Church.

How great is the difference between such Christian communism and Soviet communism! One is as far from the other as the heavens are from the earth. Christian communism is not an independent self-motivated goal to which Christianity might strive. Rather, it is an inheritance bred of that spirit of love by which the Church has breathed from the first. Moreover, Christian communism is totally voluntary. No one says, “Give us what is yours, it belongs to us,” rather, Christians themselves sacrificed so that “none of them considered any of their possessions to be their own.”

The communalism of property in Soviet communism is a self-motivated goal which must be attained no matter what the consequences and regardless of any considerations. The builders of this type of communism are attaining it by purely-violent means, not balking at any measure, even the slaughter of all those who do not agree... The bases of this communism are not freedom, as in Christian communism, but force, not sacrificial love, but envy and hatred.

In its struggle against religion, Soviet communism goes to such excesses that it excludes even that most elementary justice which is recognized by everyone. In its class ideology, Soviet communism tramples on all justice. The object of its work is not the common weal of all the citizens of the state, but only the interests of a single class. All the remaining state and social groupings of citizens are “thrown overboard,” outside the care and protection of the communist government. The ruling class has no concern for them.

In speaking of its new order, its “free” state, communism constantly promises a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” It became clear long ago, however, that there is no sign of this promised dictatorship of the proletariat, but instead, there is a bureaucratic dictatorship over the proletariat. Moreover, there is no manifestation of ordinary political freedom under this system: neither freedom of the press, nor freedom to assemble, nor the inviolability of the home. Only those who have lived in the Soviet Union know the heaviness and intensity of the oppression which reigns there. Over all this, there reigns a political terror such as has never before been experienced: executions and murders, exiles and imprisonment in unbelievably harsh conditions. This is what communism has given to the Russian people instead of the promised freedom.

In its political propaganda, communism claims that it is attaining the realization of freedom, equality (i.e., justice) and brotherhood. We have already spoken of the first and second. The idea of “brotherhood” was borrowed from the Christians who call each other “brother.” Apostle Peter said, “Honor everyone, love the brotherhood” (1 Pt. 2:17). In practice, communism exchanged the word “brother” for the word “comrade.” This is very indicative, since comrades can be co-participants (but not brethren) in any activity, but one cannot really speak of “brotherhood” anyway, there where class struggle, envy and hatred are preached...

All these cited differences between Christianity and communism do not yet exhaust even the very essence of the contradiction between them. The fundamental difference between communism and Christianity lies deeper still, in the religious ideology of both. No wonder, then, that the communists struggle so maliciously and stubbornly against our faith.

Communism is supposedly an atheistic system which renounces all religion. In actual fact, it is a religion - a fanatical, dark and intolerant religion. Christianity is a religion of heaven; communism, a religion of earth. Christianity preaches love for everyone; communism preaches class hatred and warfare and is based on egoism. Christianity is a religion of idealism, founded on the faith of the victory of God’s truth and love. Communism is a religion of dry, rational pragmatism, pursuing the goal of creating an earthly paradise (a paradise of animalistic satiety and spiritual reprobation). It is significant that, while a cross is put on a Christian’s grave, the grave of a communist is marked by a red stake. How indicative and symbolic for both. With the one – faith in the victory of life over death and good over evil. With the other – ignorant darkness, gloom and emptiness, without joy, comfort or hope for the future. While the sacred relics of the holy ascetics of Christ’s faith blossom with incorruptibility and fragrance, the rotting corpse of the often-embalmed Lenin is the best symbol of communism.


Summarize the following phrases.

Communism (as viewed by Christianity)

Christian Communism

Soviet Communism

Communalism of property (in communism)

Political Propaganda

List some differences between Christianity and Communism.