The sins of others

I have no real opinion regarding the Bishop Eddie Long scandal. I was watching  a little about it on Fox News and CNN but in the end, whether he’s guilty or innocent, it’s none of my business.  Yet there is something attractive in hearing about the failings and mistakes of others. I can only assume it’s because it, quite simply, has nothing to do with us.  We’re given a chance to play the role of judge. That is, to do that which can ultimately get us in more trouble spiritually than the ones we are foolishly judging.  It is not by mere coincidence then that, after my snooping and reading, I was led to Fr. Ted’s blog and this post he made a few months back (from here).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).

There is no doubt since Christianity began it taught its members to be holy as God is holy.  This has sometimes been reduced in people’s minds to referring only to morality, but holiness is not just proper external behavior, it also has to do with the state of a person’s heart, and in fact their very being including their relationship with God.  Sometimes Christians reduce the sense of holiness to sexual activity, something which was influenced by ideas presented early on in Christianity by dualists who despised the body and marriage, treating any sexual desire as a disease (St. John Cassian calls it such in his Institutes, though admittedly he is writing for monks not to all Christians).  This abhorrence of anything sexual ultimate denies the goodness of creation and is at odds with the Genesis story of God creating humans male and female as well as with the Gospel truth of the incarnation where Jesus is a male not an androgynous being).  Today, as in every generation of Christianity, we see these ideas manifesting themselves, in our times especially in claims which make homosexuality to be veritably THE unforgivable sin.   In the book IN THE WORLD, OF THE CHURCH, Paul Evdokimov notes:

Berdiaev [Nikolai Berdiaev, a 19th century Russian religious and political philosopher] stressed with reason that the Gospel is infinitely more severe toward wealth, exploitation, and social disorder than toward any sexual failing. The real problem of social obligation has been repressed and replaced by a veritable obsession with matters sexual, even up to our time.  According to the Gospel, it is the rich who will not enter the Kingdom, while repentant prostitutes enter ahead of the righteous and their influence.  ( pg. 87)

We are so often concerned with or obsessed by the sins of others, while holiness tells us when it comes to sin to specifically look at ourselves.   Christianity is a self-denying religion, but only when it comes to sin does it traditionally tell us to look at ourselves and judge rather than looking at and judging others.

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8 thoughts on “The sins of others

  1. I’m reminded of one of my favorite parts of the DVD, “from the Little Mountain.” There’s a part in which Fr. Seraphim, the abbott of Hermitage of the Holy Cross, is talking about minding one’s business and not worrying about the supposed sins of other monks in the monastery. He says something to the effect that the monk who is sort of “out there”, worrying about what other monks are doing and not doing; what they SHOULD be doing but are not, and what they think the other monks are doing wrong, does not make as much progress in the spiritual life as the monks that worry simply about themselves. The good monk worries about his own garden, and focuses on keeping weeds out of his own garden, and does not worry about how other monks in his/her monastery are maintaining their gardens.

    I think this outlook applies to life in the secular world, as well (and I think as Fr. pointed out in his post). It not only applies to issues such as public sexual scandal, but also applies to my work life. Is my coworker a slacker? Do I have to pick up his slack at the end of the night because he is lazy? Too bad! I should avoid getting upset and try to focus on myself, having hope that my bosses are equipped and able to make changes to my coworker’s behavior if need be. Why am I worried about my coworkers supposed laziness that only I am noticing? It just goes to show that I’m too lazy to do a little extra work.

  2. CORRECTION:
    In my previous comment, this should read…

    “They also think that God considers sex a bad thing, a shameful thing.”

    I wrote originally by mistake…

    “They also think that God considers sin a bad thing, a shameful thing.”

    Of course He does!
    My apologies.

  3. “The real problem of social obligation has been repressed and replaced by a veritable obsession with matters sexual, even up to our time. According to the Gospel, it is the rich who will not enter the Kingdom, while repentant prostitutes enter ahead of the righteous and their influence.”

    It’s the first half of this quote the grips me the most, possibly because I am so familiar with the second half, because I read or hear it frequently. But the first half presents an idea that I have had all my adult Christian life, and which I have tried to use in a positive way when witnessing to and ministering to others.

    So many people avoid Christ and the Church because they are ashamed of their sexual sins—surprisingly, many of them are not even really sins as such, but other factors have made them appear so. They also think that God considers sin a bad thing, a shameful thing. Paradoxically the Jews, who have so many sexual taboos drawn out of the Old Testament are still far more biblical and reasonable and accepting of our sexual nature and needs, and in a non-fantastic way—I mean, some who affirm sexuality do it in such a lascivious manner, they draw down both extremes upon themselves—again through focusing on sex in the wrong way, idolizing it to the same degree that others demonize it.

    But I’ve always gone on the basis that sexual sin is minor in most cases, compared to other social sins that people accept as mild and from which they regularly excuse themselves. I even consider homosexual acts in this category, because we simply cannot know exactly what it is that we are lumping together into this category. What really can be normal same sex intimacy without sex acts is often insinuated and condemned as homosexual, especially now. Back in the 1800’s and even up through the 1920’s and 30’s, it was no big deal for two men or two women to sleep together in the same bed, even in a small bed, for a variety of very good reasons ranging from poverty to affection, and they didn’t hide it. I recently read of President Lincoln’s intimate friendship with his male friends before, and even after his marriage, in which they slept together in the same bed, and even openly joked about it. Totally innocent. yet today’s commentators are now alleging that the saintly president was a closet homosexual.

    Sorry, don’t know how I got onto the homosexual side of the discussion, but that seems to be the more prominent in the culture right now. It’s so tiresome to keep seeing the tabloids telling us that our male and female heroes have been caught being gay. If they were, so what? As you’ve written, it’s none of my business. And so on and on it goes, just another way to make money off the public. Titillate them with curious stories about public figures’ foibles and sexual follies, and then rake in the dough!

    Bishop Eddie Long has probably been guilty of capitalizing on the authority he has been given by his followers to take advantage of them in various ways. A man like him, like many of the big time “evangelists”, lose sight of Jesus among all their flashy jewels and pronouncements, and then they fall into sin like the next guy. So big deal! They’re only human, and their actions and their teachings already tell us just what they are, so why should we be surprised?

    All who fall are a warning to those of us who stand that we could be as they. Sometimes they are even a sign that we can’t keep doing in secret what they were found doing. Nothing shocks or surprises me about anyone, including myself, caught in the act of sinning.

    What’s the wonder is that any of us can go through one day and come to nightfall clean as we started. Nothing more beautiful than a life surrendered to Jesus, who clothes us with Himself, and in the end turns out to be our Best Friend.

  4. I just got through reading 2 Timothy 1:1-14 then I read your post:

    1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
    1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
    1:3 I am grateful to God–whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did–when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
    1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.
    1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
    1:6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
    1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
    1:8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,
    1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
    1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
    1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher,
    1:12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
    1:13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
    1:14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
    2 Timothy 1:1-14

    Prior to reading your post I have never head of Bishop Eddie Long nor his trials. Nor do I care whether he caused his trials or they were forced on him. I do know that God allowed the trials so God is trying to communicate with Bishop Long.

    What ever Bishop Long must confess, whatever he must repent of, whatever his atonements, if any, they will only occur because of his trust in God.

    Let us pray that Bishop Eddie Long remains steadfast in his trust in God and that this steadfast trust will allow God’s glory and wisdom to be manifested.

    “But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” Romans 14:23

  5. Amen!

    When tempted to judge the sins of others, I remember that mine are worse, and the prayer of St Ephraim that we pray in lent, about seeing our own sins and not judging our brothers.

  6. Hristos Vaskrese!

    Father, I am a Serb and I live in France. I greatly appreciate your site. Your regular posts are useful to me so I simply want to say “thank you” for this.

    Yours in Christ,

    Radan

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