Sergei Komarov, writing in 'Orthodox Christianity', challenges Christians to realize how the world sees us. St. Paul stated we are 'living Epistles' reflecting the Faith that is in us. Sadly what the world sees is often the opposite. Below are some excerpts from his article:
We Orthodox consider ourselves to be the followers and successors of the first Christians. We are members of the Church founded by the Apostles and their disciples and we confess the very teaching that they confessed.
But there is something that makes us as different from Church people of the apostolic age as chalk from cheese.
In the first centuries of Christianity, entering the Church meant a fundamental change in someone’s life. Rare exceptions apart, no one was accepted into a Christian community immediately. A catechumen was expected to witness the faith by his spiritual and moral transformation and prove his faithfulness to Christ even before his Baptism.
The sacrament of Baptism bestowed a “seal” of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the transformation of the heart that ideally had already happened to a believer!
We will make a disclaimer and say that we shouldn’t idealize the first Christian communities. They did have their temptations, sins and falls. It is enough to read the First Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians to understand this. But the reality was that first a believer became a highly moral person and then entered the Church.
This is something we don’t have in our days.
We try to implement a different idea which is noble as such: to make someone a good Christian from childhood (to have him baptized, take him to Communion, instruct him in faith, and so on). But this idea works very badly due to a wide range of factors—for example, weak integration of parents and godparents into Church life, lack of catechization in parishes, the indifference of clergy to these matters… As a result we have what we have: there are far more Christians than good and kind people! It’s a paradox...
The fact that believers are sometimes indistinguishable from non-believers and in some cases are even worse than them is probably one of the main tragedies of contemporary Christianity. Non-believers don’t recognize Christians in us—and that is terrible. Because Christianity without purity of life is like meat without meat or milk without milk.