About the friendship between a Christian and a heretic I received the following question:
I know people from different sects, which do not recognize the Cross, Saints, Icons, etc. I am friend with them. Do I degrade my status as an Orthodox Christian? When should the friendship between a Christian and a person of other religion stop? That person is not baptized, but she will do it soon. Is it good if I could convince her to be baptized in the Orthodox Church? Is the Orthodox baptism practiced to an adult age (19 years)?
Being an Orthodox (right praise) Christian means to be a man who glorifies God by believing and living the truth of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Begin to read and study the Scriptures in depth and if your friend believes something different from what is written in the Bible, help him to understand what he does not believe right. If in your faith there is something that is contrary to the Scripture, then repent and start living as it is written in the Bible.
Who should you stop friendship with?
The Apostle John wrote in his second epistle when one must stop friendship with someone and he said:
And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:6-11)(NASB)
The Apostle John wrote this letter because the Gnostic heresy, called DOCETISM, began to spread. This heresy taught that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh but was a ghost. So, they denied the truth of the Gospel which is written on the pages of the New Testament. Based on those written by the Apostle John we get the following principles that apply to all Christians today:
- To believe and to live according to God’s commandments that are written exclusively in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament
- To remain in the teaching of Jesus that was in the beginning and that was sent to us by God through the inspired books found in the New Testament.
- Everyone who comes to bring us an added teaching or one that is different from the healthy teaching of the Scripture presents a threat to our faith and we should not welcome such teachings nor the people that bring it to us.
- To be able to distinguish between heresy and truth we must read the whole Bible and then systematically study it, so that we can always judge soberly in the light of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit.
- Whoever raises the other writings of men on the same level of the Holy Scripture, or assigns them the same authority and divine inspiration that only the canonical books of Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testament) have, that one is a heretic and a threat to our faith.
What to do with those who are lost from the true faith?
In the Epistle to Jude it is written:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23)(NASB)
Again, God’s Word urges us to build ourselves up on our most holy faith. To do this we must study the Scriptures because they contain the teaching of our most holy faith. Make it a daily habit to study the Bible and seek to know it in depth because only so you can help those lost. The Bible teaches us to rebuke those who seek to separate from us, and save them, that means to save them if they really wander away from the teaching of Scripture. But we should be very careful, so that we may not be caught in heresy, as well. The Christians whom Jude wrote, were facing the same heresy of the Gnostics, they were just another way, turned the grace of our God into licentiousness and denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. They taught people that if grace is so great, we can sin as much as we want and this will multiply grace. A very dangerous heresy that attracted the weak in faith and knowledge of sound doctrine of Jesus Christ as we find it in the Bible. That’s why St. Jude says to have mercy on them, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Those heretics were immoral, and that one who would have too long discussion with them was threatened to be drawn into the same immoral and sinful practices. Therefore, God teaches us to be very careful when we want to help a wandered man to come back to the most holy faith which was given to the saints once for all and is written on the pages of Scripture.
As for baptism, those who were baptized in the Holy Scriptures were baptized after they believed wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of age they had at that time. It’s good for your friend to be baptized if he believed wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus and entered into the New Covenant by being born again.
Translated by Felicia Rotaru