Serbian Orthodox Church
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Adult Class - May 12/25, 2006.
Matthew 2:16 - "Then Herod, when he was that he was deceived by the wise men,
was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who
were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according
to the time which he had determined from the wise men."
The abuse and the killing of children is not something new. The abuse and the killing
of children is an action of the extreme. Where is the love of children which the precious
Where is the concern for the children being harmed by war? Where is the concern for
children suffering in countries where famine occurs? Where is concern for the poor
children of this land?
The killing and abuse of children makes one wonder what occurs in the minds and hearts
of those perpetuating such acts. The toleration of abuse and hunger in times of plenty,
the presence of greed, are aspects of society requiring timely questions.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them;
for of such is the kingdom of God."(Mk. 10:14) What is required to bring about a society
in which children are treated with decency and respect? With care and concern, with love
and compassion and good upbringing?
Statistics regarding abortion are plentiful. Jails and prisons house men and women
convicted of crimes of abuse and neglect and assault. The daily news commonly reports
tragedies occurring to children fallen victim to predators.
Believers need to be founded in Christ to keep the matter of children in perspective.
Believers need to maintain a sense of soberness and vigilance to maintain perpective.
Parents need to be alert to the signs of danger. Parents need to be informed that
children can be the victims of violence in almost any location. Parents need to be
fortified in the faith to raise children in ways pleasing to God.
Opinions on the best way to raise children abound. There is no lack of free advice,
welcomed or not, as to how to raise children. The raising of children is a great
responsibility. The raising of children is a great God-entrusted responsibility.
When God grants that a child be born, the parents of the child take on the responsibility
to raise the child.
Children are not to be conceived and then cast off. Children are not to be conceived
and then abandoned or neglected or subject to abuse. The Lord Jesus Christ said:
"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be
better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the
depths of the sea." (Mt. 18:6)
Matthew 3:9 - "And do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'
For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.'"
Individuals neglecting, abusing, assaulting and failing to love children are challenged
to think more carefully about God and the ways God finds pleasing for children.
Individuals neglecting, abusing, assaulting and failing to love children are challenged
to look at the fundamental beliefs upon which their lives are founded and by which their
lives are guided.
Individuals neglecting, abusing, assaulting and being predators of children are
challenged to look into the mirror and analyze the heart and soul. What is the end
result of crimes against children. What is the end result for the person committing
offenses against children? What is the end result for the children?
What actions can be taken by Orthodox Christians to improve conditions for children
in each home? Parents first must look at themselves and assess if all is being done for
the children entrusted to them by God.
All believers can live in ways pleasing to God. All believers can engage in prayerful
lives with specific attention to the improvement of conditions for children.
All believers can be vigilant in their neighborhoods, in their communities, in their
schools, being a strong and reasoned presence against activities known to foster the
abuse and neglect and harm for children.
Society is shaped by those living in it. Society is shaped by the strength of those
living in it. Community life improves when individuals live Godly lives, lives pleasing to God.
Neighborhoods are orderly and safe when individuals living in the neighborhoods live in
ways pleasing to God. Believers can learn from the interchange between Jesus and the lawyer
recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke.
The lawyer said it was written in the law: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.' And 'your
neighbor as yourself.'" (Lk. 10:25-28)
Parents are challenged in the raising of children. Being a parent is no easy task.
Being a parent is a great responsibility. When one chooses to be a parent and not look
to God for strength, guidance and direction, one departs down a road that is perilous.
God gave the child life. God gave the parent life. Wise is the person knowing that
life comes from God and continued life depends upon God.
Matthew 5:45 - "That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise
on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
Believers live in communties where good and evil exist. Believers make choices on the
path to follow in the raising of their children, in the way of being citizens of the
communities in which they reside.
God makes available opportunites for all to follow the path to the Kingdom.
Repentance provides opportunities for sinners to change and to seek the Kingdom of God.
Forgiveness and understanding are essential to the Christian life. When Peter asked
Jesus how often he should forgive his brother, Jesus replied: "I do not say to you,
up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Mt. 18:21-22).
The Prophet David, the Holy Apostle Paul, Moses the Ethiopian and St.Mary of Egypt
are examples of individuals changing in ways pleasing to God.
The possibility an individual will change for the better is to be hoped for.
The thief on the Cross, turning to Christ, demonstrates that change can occur at the
last moment of life. (Lk. 23:39-43).
When dealing with individuals known to commit crimes against children or having abused
or neglected children, it is good to heed the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus told his disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Mt. 10:16).
Care must be taken not to be fooled. Care must be taken not to be gullible. Care must
be taken to avoid being victimized.
The communities in which we live are like the fields with wheat and tares.
(Mt. 13:24-30). Good and bad individuals live in communities.
The way a person lives determines whether or not he or she will enter the Kingdom of God.
The way a person meets his or her responsibility as a parent will affect whether or
not he or she will enter the Kingdom of God.
A parent does well to think about the wisdom in Proverbs. Many truths about family
life are contained in Proverbs. The often repeated saying: "Train up a child in the way
he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
(Prov. 22:6) continues to bear consideration.
When considering playmates for your child and when considering homes in which your
child can visit, bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: "You will know them by
their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?"
Children are affected by their companions. Children are affected by the in which they live.
Parents send signals to their children by what they approve and what they do not approve.
Matthew 8:12-"But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness.
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Individuals must consider where they will end up. Individuals must consider what their
primary goals and responsilities are? Parents must determine if they will meet and honor
the responsibilities of parenthood.
Individuals in the community must determine if they will treat children in accord with
the blessings of God. Individuals in the community must determine if they will honor children
as God would have them honored.
Blessed Theophylact said in hell there are varying degrees of punishment.
He cited an "inner darkness" as less severe than the "outer darkness." i
Does a person want to experience the darkness of hell or the light of Christ?
How many individuals equate the way they treat children with the way they will spend
their lives in eternity? The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Whoever receives one little child
like this in My name receives Me." (Mt. 18:5)
The desert father Evagrius once said: "Always keep your death in mind and do not forget
the eternal judgment, then there will be no fault in your soul." ii
When being in the presence of children, when having the responsbility to teach or raise
or supervise children, the words of Evagrius have a place in the forefront of the mind,
heart and soul.
Often individuals are tempted to judge the care of someone's child and to offer
comments or opinions. The raising of children in contemporary society is not easy.
An observer does not have all the facts at his or her command to make judgements about
the care of childen in the custody of others. It depends what responsibility the observer
has as to what is proper when seeing children.
Each person should meet the responsibility which is his or her own. Parents should
be parents. Friends should be friends, Kumovi should be kumovi. Individuals in position
of authority should handle the authority which is properly theirs.
The guiding rule to use was given by the Lord: "Whatever you want men to do to you,
do also to them." (Mt. 7:12). Do not be quick to judge what others
are doing with their children. Do not be quick to draw conclusions.
Believers in contemporary society must discern between the hype of the news and the
facts of contemporary life. A recent visitor to the church spoke of the large amount of
good people in the world. It is important to keep that fact in mind.
On March 17, 2006 a letter was issued by the Standing Conference of the Canonical
Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). The SCOBA letter detailed the technological
changes in society and the dangers to which children can be exposed via videos and
Concerns about pornography and predators must be dealt with by parents.
Matthew 10:21 - "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child;
and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death."
How often on the daily news is family violence an issue? How often do we hear of
crimes within the family. Experienced criminal justice professionals know that most
violence occurs among individuals known to each other.
Blessed Theophylact said Jesus "reveals the inhuman rage of those who will not
spare even their closest kin." iv Believers have to sort through daily life and find
the way God would have them go.
Believers have to be grounded in the Church, attuned to God, attentive to the
presence of God and words of God. The modern world is full of stimuli affecting
individuals and families.
Maintaining peace, order and Godly direction is a challenge for families and
individuals. Balancing and dealing with the stresses of contemporary life requires
discernment and restraint. Within the family, give and take, forgiveness and love
Believers benefit from keeping crime and danger in perspective. Believers benefit
from examining population growth and maturity trends. Believers benefit from examining
carefully church attendance.
Families attending church on a regular basis rarely end up with one or more members
incarcerated. Families attending church on a regular basis rarely end up with one or more
family members as a crime victim of another immediate family member.
Regular church attendance in and of itself does not guarantee that an individual will
never be a crime victim or that an individual will never commit a crime.
Criminal justice professionals know that some people attending church on a regular basis
do commit crimes. Some crimes are committed in church by individuals regularly attending church.
The raising of children is a great responsibility requiring sound judgement, foresight,
restraint and love of God. Parents must know when to discipline, how to love, how to teach,
how to be good examples.
Parents need to know how to turn to God for direction and guidance. Parents need to
know how to turn to God for forgiveness and strength. Parents need to know the likelihood
of raising good children increases when the family is fully rooted in the Church.
Parents need to know that even when a family is rooted in the Church, individuals make
their own choices, and a family member can stray and end up in difficulty with the law.
The Church is a fortress and a hospital for dealing with daily stresses.
Matthew 11:19 - "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton
and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
Blessed Theophylact said: "The Lord was most gracious and pleasing, condescending to all
that He might win all, bringing the good tidings of the kingdom..." v
How many parents exert themselves, doing good for the benefit of their children out of
Christian love? How many are ridiculed for such expressions of love? Are they not only
following the way of the Lord?
How many parents show unrelenting love for wayward children and find in the end their
efforts were beneficial? During the process perhaps others would make fun and say the child
would never turn out to be good
How many law abiding adults were once known as "delinquents" but due to the steadfastness
of parental love, gave up their "delinquent" ways and became contributors to society?
Parental prayers for children may prevent children from going astray. Parental prayers
may help to bring children back from wayward behavior. Parental prayers may help lessen the
severity and frequency of crimes committed by sons or daughters.
Believers trust in the value of prayer. Believers trust in the goodness and mercy of God.
Believers trust in the constancy of God. Believers trust in the attentiveness of God.
Believers trust in God.
Parents going to extreme lengths for the benefit of raising good children are wise
in doing so if the efforts undertaken are in keeping with the teachings of the Church.
Parental efforts and goals need to be established and measured by the teachings and
life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Parental efforts and goals should be able to stand up under
careful comparison with the teachings found in the Holy Scriptures.
Serious Christians may appear different in society because of strong identification
with the life of the Church. Internal strength and commitment to Christ is necessary to
withstand pressures to change, to conform to societal ways and values that may be less
than or anti-Christian.
Serious Christians need to be prepared to be different and need to be comfortable
in being different when differences are required for living in Christ.
Following the teachings and example of the Lord Jesus Christ is the responsibility
of each professed Christian. The path of Christ involves the Cross.
The path of Christ can involve ridicule and danger. The path of Christ can require
courage and willingness to confront adversity.
Following Christ requires a certain resoluteness to reach the Kingdom.
Matthew 13:38 - "The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom,
but the tares are the sons of the wicked one."
Everyone shares the same environment. Everyone has the same number of hours per day.
Everyone has the same number of days in a week. Lives may vary in length.
Some individuals lead saintly lives but depart earthly life at a relatively young age.
Others live long lives, some being saintly and some not. The choices made in life determine
the course of life.
If time permits, an individual can reverse the course of his or her life. He or she,
having travelled the broad road to destruction, can seek the narrow path to the kingdom.
Parents set the roadway for their children. Not all children follow the path of the parents. In a given community, many children may do well by community standards, but one or more individuals may take a different path and end up in difficulties.
Similarly, a neighborhood may have a reputation for producing crime prone individuals.
Not everyone in a given neighborhood, even those neighborhoods prone to crime, ends up
following the path of crime.
Each person makes his or her individual decision to draw closer to God or to take an
The outcome of each human life is important. A single human living fully for
Christ can affect succeeding generations. A single person committing attrocities
can affect successive generations.
What are proper balances of daily life that lead to healthy families? What are the
proper balances of daily life that lead to the raising of healthy children? What are the
proper balances of daily life when societal differences are considered?
What conclusively determines that a particular child becomes a saint and another
child becomes a legendary criminal? What determines why a particular person applies
his or her God-given talents for the glory of God and another person takes similar
talents and exploits them for personal glory and greedy excess?
Society changes during the course of time. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,
today and forever." (Heb. 13:8) The mind benefits from thinking
about the societal differences and experiences. The mind benefits from thinking
about drawing closer to Christ and the ways of Christ.
The mind is given by God. The mind works because of the goodness and mercy of God.
Why not use the mind for the glory of God? Why not use the mind for the benefit of the soul?
Why clutter the mind with trivial matters? Why clutter the mind with thoughts and images
not befitting the "Temple of the Holy Spirit?". Holy Apostle Paul said: "Your body is the
temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you." (I Cor. 6:19)
Matthew 15:26 - "But He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread
and throw it to the little dogs.'"
That which is intended for children should be used for children. Parents must determine
how to use the time alloted. Parents must determine ways to give necessary time to the
raising of children. Children can grow up and the parents may never have had sufficient
time for them.
The Holy Apostle Paul wrote eloquently about love in the First Epistle to the Corinthians
( I Cor. 1-13). Every parent needs to be familiar with the words of
St. Apostle Paul when he speaks about love.
Children also need to know about love. Children grow up and may have parents in need.
Love is to be given by children to parents just as love for children is expected from parents.
Children are not always a single age. Children grow from birth to adulthood. Children
have responsibility to make good use of the parental guidance and training and love received.
Each child as he or she matures assumes a responsibility to self, to family and to
society. Growing up in a bizarre household does not give an individual license to live
in ways that negatively affect society.
At some point in life, with the exception of those mentally incapable of doing so, each
individual must take responsibility for the self. Each person must choose to accept or reject
God and the ways of God. Each person takes on the consequences of his or her behavior.
The decisions a person makes affects others. One person at seriousprayer sets a chain
reaction in motion. One person committing serious crimes sets a chain reaction in motion.
One person committing charitable acts sets an example for others. One person losing his
or her temper in the presence of others disturbs what might otherwise be a tranquil setting.
One person wasting resources can deprive others of needed resources.
One person sharing his or her wealth can strengthen a community.
Group behavior can increase benefits. When a worshipping community takes serious
the life of the Church, the benefits reach far and wide. When a worshipping communtiy
takes serious the life of the Church, the community becomes known for living according
to the Holy Gospel.
The parishioners of each parish church affect the life of the parish.
The parishioners of each parish church, individually, either contribute to
the benefit of the parish or detract from it.
Children hold a special place with God. Each professed believer does well
when he or she seeks to benefit the children with whom they come in contact.
Matthew 17:25-26 - "He said, 'Yes.' And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated
him, saying, 'What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or
taxes, from their sons or from strangers?' Peter said to Him, 'From strangers.' Jesus said
to them 'Then the sons are free.'"
Freedom comes with Christ. Freedom consists of knowing of the love of Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing Christ defeated death.
Freedom comes from knowing the way of Christ and the value of following Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing Christ through the centuries.
Freedom comes from knowing Christ loves each person of each century.
Freedom comes from knowing Christ suffered on the Cross.
Freedom comes from the message of the Empty Tomb.
Freedom comes from the testimony of the martyrs.
Freedom comes from the expressions of faith documented through the centuries.
Freedom comes from knowing Jesus Christ loved the children (Mt. 19:14).
Freedom comes from knowing children can be brought to Church and can be baptized.
Freedom comes from knowing children can receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing parents can be foregiven.
Freedom comes from knowing children can be forgiven.
Freedom comes from knowing children can be corrected with Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing mothers and fathers can be healed with Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing hurt can be handled with Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing that when we depart from Christ, we can return.
Freedom comes from knowing that when we have no where to turn for help, we can turn to Christ.
Freedom comes from knowing that when we are feeling alone with our children in an
uphill struggle, we are not alone because of the ever presence of God.
Freedom comes from knowing that when injury or harms comes to the family,
Christ is ever-present to begin the healing and restoration.
Freedom comes from knowing that the joy of the Risen Lord lifts the hearts and
minds and souls of families to heights immeasurable.
Freedom comes from knowing that even when sons or daughters are incarcerated
they can benefit from Christ and grow in Christ. Freedom comes from knowing that
crime victims can have hurt healed and wholeness restored to family life.
Freedom comes from knowing that wherever we go, at whatever age we are, we always have God.
Matthew 19:29 - "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or
mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold,
and inherit eternal life."
When entering the Baptismal fount, the individual becomes a committed follower of Christ.
The individual enters into a commitment to follow Christ. When taken seriously, the believer
really never knows where he or she will go.
The ultimate goal is eternal life. The ultimate goal is the salvation of the soul.
The ultimate goal is the Kingdom of God.
Parents willing bring their children for Holy Baptism. Children serious in the faith
as they grow to adulthood, willingly follow Christ. Followers of Christ may stay in a
given location. Followers of Christ may travel great distances.
Serious followers of Christ carefully listen to and learn from Christ.
Serious Christian parents study the life and teachings of Christ and attempt
to raise their children accordingly.
Serious followers of Christ take their children to church on a consistent basis
because they believe the children will benefit greatly. Children may pray to God in
church and at home with utmost sincerity for soberness in their parents. Children may
pray to God with utmost seriousness for more fairness in parents. Children may pray to
God with utmost sincerity for more time with their parents.
The raising of the children as Christians requires considerable thought. Children
raised as Christians will give great thought to their parents, living and/or departed.
The raising of children is of pastoral interest. The raising of children is related
to the Kingdom of God. The raising of children is of importance to all.Children grow and
become members of the adult community. The way children grow affects the type of community
that will exist.
The way each person relates to the children in his or her life and the way each child
grows to maturity should be matters of interest to all Christians.
iThe Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel
According to St. Matthew.
Chrysostom Press, House Springs, Missouri, 1992, p. 71
iiThe Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
Translated by Benedicta Ward. Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1984, p. 64
iiiMarch 17, 2006 Letter of Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox
Bishops in the Ame ricas. New York, New York.
ivThe Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel
According to St. Matthew,
vIbid., p. 96
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