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On Faith
“Children of the kingdom”

“And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12).

I would like to draw your prayerful attention to these two verses from the Gospel.

Who are these “children of the kingdom” who shall be cast out into outer darkness?

“Outer darkness” in church parlance refers to the state of hell before and after our passage from this life.

In order for the concept of the children of the kingdom to become more understandable to us, I will remind you of the following event in the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov: once, talking about two abbesses, he said that they were not nuns but two pieces of black smoldering wood, and that they would not inherit the Heavenly Kingdom. To St. Seraphim, a clairvoyant, the state of their soul or mindset was like an open book, and he knew well that these abbesses were not worthy of such a high rank. But the saint would not have said this to anyone if it were not for their benefit.

And thus from this live example we are better able to understand the Gospel: it becomes clear to us that in outward appearance one can seem to be worthy of respect, while our internal (spiritual) state merits the flames of Gehenna. Did the above-mentioned abbesses appoint themselves heads of their convents? Of course not! This means that whoever appointed them, found them worthy of such high rank and honor. But this person judged only by outward appearance!

In the Old Testament, the “children of the kingdom” were the Israelites, while in the New Testament, in which we now live, they are the children of grace. They are the ones who have received the grace of holy baptism and other holy Christian sacraments. In other words, the children of the kingdom are all of us – Christians.

However, without inner spiritual coordination, so-called virtues are not yet everything. For example: do we not regard chastity as something holy? And yet pure virgins are turned away at the door of the heavenly chamber, as we hear in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:12), and in place of virgins it is the repenting prostitutes who enter the Heavenly Realm.

Is not the one who keeps fast and is abstinent considered a great person among us? Even the Pharisee said: “I fast two times a week.” And yet in the words of the prophet Isaiah the Lord says to them and those like them: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul…Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bonds of wickedness…” (Isaiah 58:5-6).

Is it not considered great to be pious and to spend time in prayer? But of such people the Lord says through the holy King David: “Let his prayer become sin” (Psalm 109:7).

These are just a few examples of seeming virtue practiced by so-called children of the kingdom and which do not lead to salvation. And, in accordance with the word of God, such “children of the kingdom shall be cast out…”

It would not seem strange if they were cast out for murder, fornication, deceit, theft and other major sins, but they are being cast out for a supposedly virtuous life.

Why is that?

Because they have practiced their virtue in hypocrisy, or in vanity and pride. Consequently, they will be cast out either for hypocrisy or for vanity.

Dear brethren! Do not rely on outward appearances, do not judge by what you see or hear. And do not think of your own self that if outwardly everything is well with you, then the matter of salvation, i.e. your spiritual life, is also in good condition and working order. Beware of receiving the title of “children of the kingdom” solely for external manifestations!

According to God’s commandments and church canons, outer rectitude and the external order of our life must accord with inner disposition.

In order to bring the word of the Gospel nearer to our life, carefully observe all those around you, and you will see many examples of how behind an outwardly unprepossessing appearance hides a tender Christian soul.

Thus, let us not judge either ourselves or others by external appearance. Let us remember that salvation already begins here, on this earth, and those who strive towards it no longer fear earthly adversity, because nothing can shake their spiritual peace, since God is with them.

Protopriest Igor Hrebinka.

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