The Truth Obliges
Vladimir Solovyov, in his description of St Vladimir of Rus, provides for us an explanation of why he is a great saint, worthy of the title bestowed upon him: Equal to the Apostles:
While he was a pagan, the first Kievan Christian prince devoted himself absolutely to his natural inclinations, but once baptized, he immediately understood the simple truth that neither the Byzantine emperors, beginning with Constantine the Great, nor the Greek bishops ever did (this included, incidentally, those who were sent to Kieve for the instruction of new Christians). He understood that true faith obliges, and it obligates you, namely, to change the rules by which both you and your community live, consonant with the spirit of the new faith. He understood this as even applying in the instance of the death penalty, which was obscure not just for the Byzantines alone; he found it incompatible with the Spirit of Christ to impose the death penalty even upon avowed brigands. The newly baptized Vladimir understood that to take the life of unarmed – and consequently harmless – people in revenge for their earlier evil deeds was contrary to Christian justice. It is striking that in such an attitude to this question he was guided not just by a natural feeling of pity, but directly by his consciousness of true Christian requirements. […] Finding the death penalty unjust, Vladimir also related to war with Christian nations negatively as well, preserving his retainers just for defense of the land against barbaric and rapacious nomads, who were amendable to no other argument than armed force.
The truth obliges. It’s not merely something to be believed, but to be lived out. This is exactly the message of Christ: he is the way, the truth, and the life: but as the way, he presented what it was that was expected of those who follow him, those who love him. He didn’t expect people to merely believe in him and not be transformed: he expected metanoia, a true change of mind. Christians, who had found their sins forgiven, were told to forgive others. They were told to follow the path of love, no matter how difficult it was, even if it cost them their lives. The early Christians lived this expectation out. Their response to their persecutors in Rome was two-fold: education and forgiveness. There was no armed revolt – indeed, those who favored such revolt were rejected by the Church. Even those who tried to force martyrdom upon themselves by acting up were seen as trouble makers and did not receive any veneration.
Today, it is common for people to say the faith obliges, but people say it obliges only in a partial testimony of Christ’s expectations. They forget what the obligation is of: love. They see their obligation as a system of rules, and judge rules upon the expediency of their desires. “Oh, sure, Christ said that, but can he really expect me to live that out today?” Yes, Christ expects it. Even if it means you are to take up your cross and lose yourself in the process. Conditional love is not love at all.
St. Vladimir is a favorite saint of mine. So is St. Olga. Their stories are true human stories. They were both some of the most war-like rulers I’ve ever known. Humanly speaking, one can even appreciate why. But once Christ came to them, everything changed. Everything.
Does our Christian faith transform us accordingly? If not, why not?
 Vladimir Solovyov, “Byzantinism and Russia,” in Freedom, Faith, and Dogma. Trans. Vladimir Wozniuk (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2008), 195.