During last Sunday’s sermon, I briefly related the story of Maria Skobtsova, a deeply committed Christian and political dissident who fled Russia soon after the Socialist Revolution. She eventually settled with her family in Paris, where she set up hospitality houses to aid the poor and give refuge to other Russian immigrants. During World War II, when the Nazis occupied France, she helped smuggle Jews to safety. Eventually, the Gestapo uncovered her scheme of providing fake baptismal certificates to Jews so they could avoid arrest. She was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she was killed in a gas chamber. Skobtsova was canonized as a saint in the Orthodox Christian Church.
Amy Frykholm, associate editor of the Christian Century, recently published an article that closely examined an essay by Skobtsova entitled, “Religious Types,” in which she discussed five distinct ways of practicing the Christian faith. One type celebrated tradition above all else. Another placed primary emphasis on ritual. A third was principally interested in religious “beauty,” like architecture, iconic art, and music. A fourth type was mainly concerned with the salvation of the individual soul and sought separation from the world. According to Skobtsova, all these types failed to represent love. The command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” she said, represent one single truth. Christianity cannot reflect Christ unless love is at its heart.
According to Skobtsova, love is most clearly expressed in her fifth “type,” what she called evangelical Christianity – which of course meant something very
Even if you’re not ready to adopt Maria’s radical lifestyle, it’s worth asking, “How can we further Christify our lives?” Or, how is Christ seeking to be more clearly reflected in us? When you open yourself up to the presence of Christ, you open your hands, your heart, and your mind. You give and you love, because that is what Christ always seeks to do through us.
©2017 by J. Mark Lawson