Every year my wife and daughter invite me to watch the mini-series Pride and Prejudice. In the first episode Mr. Darcy gives the impression of being a proud man and it takes 5 more episodes for Elizabeth Bennett’s prejudice against him to be uprooted by contradictory evidence.
This is an appropriate template for how many evangelicals view Orthodox believers in Russia. The Orthodox here, often, give the first impression of being proud, and our prejudice makes it very hard to see them as otherwise.
A few of my prejudices are being gradually eroded, not just by finding that some of my first impressions were wrong, but also by signs of God’s work in Orthodoxy. This is happening primarily through a relationship with one local leader.
How Father Igor came to be at a Protestant Seminary
Igor (not his real name) was my son's history teacher at a Christian school about 12 years ago. By the time my son, Lewis, moved back to Russia 5 years ago, Igor had become Father Igor, a Russian Orthodox priest.
During the fall intensive with 13 Russian pastors, I taught Liturgical Life. As part of that course I invited Igor to give a short lecture on the Russian Orthodox liturgy.
What We Learned from Father Igor
The first thing Father Igor said was, “I see that many of you are older than I am so please call me Igor, not Father Igor”. This was a surprise as Orthodox priests sometimes have a reputation for being unapproachable. My prejudice was being challenged by Igor’s friendliness.
During the Q and A I asked, “What Biblical foundation do you have for praying for the dead?” “I have no Biblical foundation, but a human one. That is that our unbelieving relatives are in a covenant relation with us, and God sees them through us, and us through them, so we can pray for them as God promises to save those we love.”
He was so humble and forthcoming on all fronts that no one argued with him nor felt the need to debate. I grew in my understanding of Orthodoxy and and in my appreciation of God’s power to spread the Gospel.
Father Igor’s Church
God is Working
Igor teaches the Bible to about 75 parishioners every week. This, too, is rare but, seemingly, a growing trend for Orthodox priests in Russia to offer Bible study outside of formal worship. God is reforming His church! My prejudice kept me from believing this was possible in that environment.
This Lesson is for Us All in All Places
Throughout the seminary training we attempt to instill certain doctrines but also we want to teach the men that we can respect and, possibly, learn something from those we do not always agree with. And as always, when I teach something at the seminary God is working on me as well.
Seminary attendees with Father Igor
Outdo one another in showing honor Romans 12:10
Only then will we be free from both pride and prejudice
HopeRussia (formerly the Slavic Reformation Society) is a mission of North American churches initiated in response to the great commission of Jesus Christ, which is to make disciples of all nations of the earth. (Matthew 18:19, 20)
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