“People Thirst for Common Kindness and not Rhetorical Skills”

Each day this week, we will publish a different response to the question posed to Russian priests: How should we preach Christ in modern society? Enjoy!

by Priest Valery Dukhanin

Here is a short story of our days. An Orthodox parishioner of one ancient monastery went to Israel. It so happened that she became the nurse of a rabbi’s the elderly wife. The aged Jewess had a terminal cancer. Wishing to comfort her and relieve her suffering, the Orthodox woman began to read her the Gospel from time to time. The old Jewess liked it—now she felt peace in her soul. Then the sick woman was given some holy water and anointed with holy oil—and each time she felt a sense of relief. And the day came when she decided to be baptized and accept our Lord Jesus Christ. And she died a Christian. And, of course, we should know that the Orthodox nurse was sincere, pure, kind, and not importunate in her actions.

I may surprise many by this statement, but people are very responsive to the preaching of Christ. That has always been and will always be the case. For human souls feel miserable without God, they thirst for the truth, light, goodness, and warmth. People are drawn to this. If you a man of candor, if you are driven by sincerity in your relations with God, your neighbors, and everything around you, then people are quickly drawn to you, even if you have never thought about it and have never had any missionary aims.

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Actually, preaching in the sense of coming out onto the streets and announcing the Gospel, looking down on people, would be extremely unwise. Human souls thirst for living, heart-to-heart talk, for cordial treatment and common kindness, and not rhetorical skills or psychotherapeutic counselling. True, being a good person is not sufficient to awaken faith in people; what is needed is something “other-worldly”, something that is higher than our earthly passions—that is, our life in Christ, for life only life awakens life.

As soon as the fire of somebody’s live communication with God begins to glow, we are ready to hurry there because something awakens in our hearts after contact with the soul that lives in God. We feel something that is close to us and necessary for us, yet something that we have not achieved or have lost.

So, I believe that genuineness is the most important thing in our Christian life. If you are a liar, if you say one thing and think another—who will believe you? People will feel your hypocrisy and won’t follow you. But when people feel genuineness, it inspires respect and prompts the desire to come into contact with the treasure that a believer possesses.

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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