A second-century document describes Christians as belonging to various countries and not being distinguished by country or culture. Yet their inner life means that they live in a radically different way to those around them:
They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are “in the flesh”, but do not live “according to the flesh”. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
Orthodox Christians believe that God is concerned with the whole of our lives, and that we are called to be obedient and loyal to Him before all else. However, we live in a broken world, and our lives are also affected by this brokenness (which we call sin). Although we want to respond to God’s love, keep His commandments, and follow Jesus Christ, we often fail. Yet what matters is not that we fall, but that we choose to get up again and turn to Christ once more.
We call this repeated turning to Christ repentance and the Orthodox Church sees it as fundamental to our lives – we are called to a life of repentance. Repentance is not simply a once-off thing, nor does it just mean feeling bad because of our sins. Rather, it is a continual choosing to turn towards Jesus Christ and to keep our gaze fixed on Him.
We cannot do this on our own, and God has given us the Church to support us on our journey towards Him. While we are all unique human beings with our own personalities, we are joined together in the Body of Christ. Not only are we called to support one another in the Church, but we are also fed by Jesus Christ Himself, who comes among us as we listen to the Scriptures and receive His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
The Church supports us in our life of repentance by offering us various disciplines that can bring us closer to Christ. These include:
- The keeping of the commandments
- Prayer (both personal and together with others)
- Almsgiving and caring for those in need
- Participation in the sacraments, particularly Confession and the Holy Eucharist