A COMMON ILLUSION
The present agony of the Church has resulted from an illusion which has been common to all the Churches, i.e. that one of the Churches could be saved without all other Churches. It is, in fact, only the enlarged Protestant theory of individualism, which found its expression, especially in Germany, in the famous formula: "Thou, man, and thy God!" It is an anti-social and anti-Christian formula too, quite opposed to the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father," which is in the plural and not in the singular possessive. This prayer is a symbol of our salvation: we can be saved only in the plural, not in the singular; only collectively, not as individuals: i.e. we can be saved, but I cannot be saved. I cannot be saved without thee, and thou canst not be saved without me. For if thou art in need I can be saved only by helping thee; and vice versa, if I am in need, thou canst save thyself only by saving me. And we all, and always, are in need of each other. Peter could not be saved without Andrew, and John and James, nor could the others be saved without Peter. That is why Christ brought them all together, and educated them to live and pray together, and spoke to them in assembly as to one being. If Christ's method were like the German Protestant method, "Thou, man, and thy God!" He would really never have gathered the disciples together, but He would have gone to Andrew and saved Andrew first; and then to Peter and saved Peter; and then to John and James and the others, and saved them individually, one by one. That is just what He did not--because He could not do it. He knew, and He said (speaking of the two Commandments), that God is only one constituent of our salvation, and that the other constituent is our neighbours. What does that mean, but that I cannot be saved without God and my neighbours? And my neighbours! The whole of mankind must become the mystical body of Christ before any one of us is saved. If ninety nine of us think we are saved, still we must wait in the corridor of Heaven until the one lost sheep is found and brought in; the door of Heaven does not open for one person only. And speaking in larger circles we may say: If ninety-nine Churches think they are saved, still they must wait in the corridor of Heaven until the one retrograde Church has become the member of the mystical body of Christ. The door of Heaven is open for Christ only and for nobody else. And the mystical Christ does not mean one righteous man only, or two, or twelve, or one Church denomination, or one generation--no. It means milliards and milliards of human beings. All the Churches are inbuilt into His body. This building is yet far from being finished, still it is much larger and more magnificent than we think. It is larger than a denomination, it is loftier than our nation, or our race, or our Empire; yea, it is stronger than Europe.
Consequently, the Church of England cannot be saved without the Church of the East, nor the Church of Rome without Protestantism; nor can England be saved without Serbia, nor Europe without China, nor America without Africa, nor this generation without the generations past and those to come. We are all one life, one organism. If one part of this organism is sick, all other parts should be suffering. Therefore let the healthy parts of the Church take care of the sick ones. Self-sufficiency means the postponement of the end of the world and the prolongation of human sufferings. It is of no use to change Churches and go from one Church to another seeking salvation: salvation is in every Church as long as a Church thinks and cares in sisterly love for all other Churches, looking upon them as parts of the same body, or there is salvation in no Church so long as a Church thinks and cares only for herself, contemptuously denying the rights, beauty, truth and merits of all other Churches. It is a great thing to love one's Church, as it is a great thing to love one's country, but it is much better to love other Churches and other countries too. Now, in this time, when the whole Christian world is in a convulsive struggle one part against the other, now or never the consciousness of the desire for one Church of Christ on earth should dawn in our souls, and now or never should the appreciation, right understanding and love for each part of this one Church of Christ on earth should dawn in our souls, and now or never should the appreciation, right understanding and love for each part of this one Church begin in our hearts.
Stick to your Church: it is a beautiful and a holy Church, but, nevertheless, break up every sort of disgraceful exclusiveness from other Churches. That is the way to bring the Church out of the present agony and weakness. That is the best way for you to serve your own Church and your own nation. And the Crucified does not ask any other service from your Church in the present world agony. A