Where Do You Stand?
by Fr. Anthony Yazge
For three years the teens of the Antiochian Archdiocese have formally given their prayers, time, talent and voices to stand up for Orthodox Church teaching on the sacred gift of life. Previously, many of our Orthodox Christian teens witnessed as individuals to these truths in their living of the Gospel. They have been and are still committed to conveying to others the understanding that life begins at conception and continues into eternity. The members of Teen SOYO have dedicated themselves specifically to witness before the world to the value of life by observing the Sacred Gift of Life Sunday in January, the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the disastrous Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. But for our faithful young men and women this isn’t enough.
Last summer, at the meetings of the North American Council of Teen SOYO, our teens decided to go a step further. They recognize that the issue we face with unwanted pregnancy is symptomatic of a greater problem – the lack of purity, chastity and holiness in our society. In fact, a recent study by researchers at the Rand Corporation concluded that teenagers who watch television shows that contain sexual content are twice as likely to be involved in teenage pregnancies. Did we really need a study to confirm what most of us already knew? Even our teens had this concept well within their grasp, before any study results, when they took the initiative this summer to focus on educating others about the godliness of living a virginal life until marriage.
St. Ephraim the Syrian writes, “Every man who loves purity and chastity becomes the temple of God.” It is the prayer, wish and dream of our young people that all of us would strive to become temples of the living God. It should be understood that traits such as purity and chastity are quality attributes and ought to be held in high regard. Chastity and purity of heart are about an entire vision and understanding of life, in which we strive to become more and more like God in everything. Today, and for about the last 40 years, society has flaunted immorality and even promotes sexually immoral living as the acceptable way of life in the media. In film, TV and music, ridicule is often heaped on young people who subscribe to a chaste and pure life.
As the Church, and especially as the adults of the Church, we ought to encourage our young men and women (and our older ones as well) to set their lives apart for God. These are our goals: to wait for things that God would desire us to wait for, until they are done with the blessing from God through the sacrament of marriage; and to show patience with all things in life and see our reward in God’s own time, as the righteous believers have always done. As adults, we ought to model the Christian life as did the saints before us. We ought to be pure and chaste in our own lives and to pray for our young men and women who are constantly bombarded by assaults of the devil through a variety of cultural influences.
Young men and women in the Church, especially within the leadership of Teen SOYO, have a good sense of what is right. They know what is pleasing to God. They need some assurance from us – the ones who have already traveled that road – that a moral and upright life will be pleasing to them as well, and be acknowledged and rewarded in due time by God Himself. Let us stand up alongside the teens of our parishes and proclaim the truth about chastity and purity. Let us witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our communities and the world. Let us protect all life – the young, the old and especially the unborn.