Following Christ as a Family

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-42a).

The Pantocrator ("TheAlmighty")

The Pantocrator (“The Almighty”)

If you heard of a great new restaurant in your neighborhood that offered unbelievably great tasting and healthy food for free, would you actually go to the restaurant or be content to just hear about it? Wouldn’t you not only go, but also tell your family and friends and try to bring them too?

In the Gospel reading for the Feast Day of St. Andrew, the Apostle Andrew heard about Jesus Christ, and then followed after Him. You, too, have heard of Christ; but are you following Him? Furthermore, Andrew not only followed Christ, but found his brother and brought him to Jesus. Are you willing to be like St Andrew – willing to find and bring others to Christ? Are you willing to be like St. Peter – willing to be found and brought to Christ?

It is necessary for you the faithful of St Andrew’s in Pensacola, FL to not only hear Christ, but to follow Him – and to follow Him with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why can’t you just follow Christ on your own? If you are like Andrew and are already following Christ, why should you go and find your brother or sister who is unaware of Christ or struggling in his or her faith? You do it out of love. Just as you would not enjoy eating at the restaurant by yourself as much as you would with your loved ones, no one who knows and is following Christ wants to be saved alone. If you are like Simon, you can’t follow Christ on your own because you won’t know how to proceed. You won’t know how to get to Christ, how to follow Him.

If you try to follow Christ on your own, you determine your own fate. No one is there to pick you up when you fall. Neither can you pick anyone up when they fall. Our Church does not function this way. We are a body. A leg or eye can’t just decide to function on its own. Remember the disembodied hand, “Thing”, from The Addams Family? He could do a lot of things but he always needed to be carried in his box and placed where he could function.

Therefore, do not try to follow Christ without your brothers and sisters.

What about maintaining bonds with others – family ties – without following Christ? Are you susceptible to misplacing Christ with “family loyalty”? Family loyalty can produce destruction. Just watch The Godfather or American Gangster. In these movies, family members are drawn in and loyalty is emphasized, but to what end? Prison and death. You, too, are susceptible to family loyalties that can be destructive, but they are not always so readily apparent as being a member of a criminal family. Nevertheless, they are often very persuasive, producing guilt and creating false moral choices about abandoning one’s “true family”.

Therefore, you must ask yourself, Who is my true family? Who is the head of your family? Who is “Our Father”? If those whom you wish to call “family” do not seek or show little to no interest in following after God and His Son, our head, Jesus Christ, then they are not your family. This is why Jesus says:

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household ( Matthew 10:35-36).

In order to follow after Christ with your true brothers and sisters, you need to know where you came from and where you are going. You are going towards Christ. You did not come to this community at St. Andrew’s for any other reason. You did not come into being as “St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church” for any other reason. You are here as a family to move towards Christ. Where have you been before becoming this unified family heading towards Christ? What are your options in leaving this family? To know where you came from and where you could go, you must do as St. John the Theologian tells us:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

You do not have the option to go where Christ is not followed. In evaluating where you were and what is out there, consider always: Is Christ being preached? Is Christ being followed? Or are there other reasons – history, ethnicity, common backgrounds and social ties – why another community is together (or not so together)?

As St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church, you have both brought your brothers and sisters with you thus far and have been brought closer to Christ. Thus you must also consider the familial support – the support that existed between our patron, the Apostle Andrew and his brother. These brothers partook of the life of Christ together. They partook of the cup of Suffering together. They shared the Body and Blood of Jesus, the freely given feast, together. Do not miss going to eat at the Table that has been freely given with your family.

You must go as brothers and sisters in Christ – as the family unit you are.