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Concerning the admonishming of sinners


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#1 Dan L.

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 12:46 PM

Can any of the more mature Orthodox believers point me to the correct attitude to take in dealing with other sinners? As a sinner myself, I feel very uncomfortable admonishing others for their failures when my own failings are so great, but I was looking at my prayer book that I recently received (I'm a catachumen) and it says that silence is one way of participating in another's sin. It also has admonishing sinners as a spiritual act of mercy. How do I reconcile those directions with Christ's instruction on removing the beam from my own eye before attempting to remove the moat from my brother's eye and also His instruction not to case pearls before swine (am I understanding these passages correctly). There also seems to be well documented precedent among the Desert Fathers regarding keeping silence on another's failings.

Any practical advice would greatly be appreciated. I want to follow the Church's teaching on this, but I'm afraid I am too inexperienced to know what is the correct approach to take.

#2 Nina

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:28 PM

I am not a mature Orthodox, however I know that when I admonish other sinners I do not have time to look at my own sins - which is the whole purpose of our spiritual struggle. And I think a story from Gerontikon says about a Saint who while going into a town, saw people there sinning and he stopped and started to pray for *his own* sins after recalling them, and an Angel with a sword appeared to him and told him that he did the right thing recalling and praying for his own sins instead of judging the other people, because who judges will die from that sword - the angel said. I am not saying you and I are judging, however when we are mindful of the sins of others, it is very difficult not to judge and not to feel self-righteous. This probably is easier for Saints. :)

#3 Dan L.

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:34 PM

That is how I feel myself, but I don't want to sin if remaining silent is sin by participation. It kind of seems like I'm in trouble either way.

#4 Xenia Moos

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:40 PM

I think the problem becomes more acute if we see the sins of another putting people in danger.

Some examples:

A person who drinks and drives
A sexual predator
Arsonist

#5 Nitsa

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 04:03 AM

Judging the sin, not the sinner. When we find out about someone that claims to be a Christian but he is living in grave sin, we can speak to the priest and let him be the one to reach out to the sinner. Keeping quiet may not be the best. Every situation can be handled differently. I am not wise enough to be able to discern, but I would speak to my spiritual father about it..

#6 Vlad

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 08:55 AM

Saint Moses the Black was a mature orthodox so lets remember the next incident, related in Gerontikon:

Once the Fathers of the Scetis were holding a council to reprimand a monk who had committed a fault. St. Moses was invited, but he refused to attend. The priest went to him, and said, “Come, for the people are expecting you.” St. Moses arose, took a basket filled with sand that had a hole in the bottom of it, carried it on his shoulder and started walking towards the council. When the monks saw him coming with the bag of sand, with sand pouring out of the hole, they asked him the reason of his behavior. He said to them, “The sand you see running from the bag represents my sins which are always following me, and yet, today I am coming to judge the errors of my brother.” When they heard this, they left the council and every monk went to his own cell, as none could judge that monk.

edit: we must find the real orthodoxy inside of what we today know as „orthodoxy”...and it becomes harder every day. (p.s.:sometimes in prayer books we can find things that doesnt respect the view of the fathers)

Edited by Vlad, 20 December 2012 - 09:16 AM.


#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 11:29 PM

(Galatians 6:1-5)

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

#8 Eric Peterson

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 12:34 AM

A lot depends on the context. It would be unprofitable to "admonish sinners" without regarding the circumstances. Do you have a relationship with that sinner? No. Okay, then pray for him. Is he or she a loved one? Yes. Okay, then pray for them and be kind to them. Is he acting out of confusion or out of obstinacy? What you do is different depending on the case.

To paraphrase two things from the Apothegmata Patrum:

1. There was a brother who had a bad reputation. Together with two other brothers, he visited an abba. Each of the others asked for something from the abba's handiwork as a blessing. He told them he didn't have time. The brother with the bad reputation then asked the abba for something as a blessing, and the abba said, "For you, I have time." The other two asked the abba privately later why he made something for the brother with the bad reputation but told them he didn't have time to make something for them. He told them that both of them weren't offended when he said he didn't have time, but if he said he didn't have time to make a blessing for the brother with a bad reuptation, he would've gone away sad thinking, "it's because I have a bad reputation that the abba says he has no time."

2. There was a brother who kept a woman in his cell. The other fathers decided to go and expell him from the monastery. An abba heard about this and visited the brother beforehand. The brother hid the woman in a basket or something, IIRC, before the abba came in the door. The abba then proceeded to sit on top of the basket and converse with the brother until the other fathers came to visit. The abba ordered the other fathers to search the cell and find this woman. Not finding her, because the abba (who was clairvoyant) was sitting on the basket containing her. The abba then chastised the fathers for falsely accusing the brother and judging him. They asked for forgiveness and left. Then the abba got off the basket and told the brother, "Brother, be careful" and left.

When we reveal our brother's sin to others, God will reveal our sins before the holy angels, a saint said. When we cover our brother's sin (not denying it's a sin or pretending it's not there, but out of love for our brother and because we do not wish him to suffer because of his sin, but to repent of it and be healed), God will cover our sins.

Of course, today many more sins are not only public, but treated as if they were normal or commendable. But preaching against them, as a primary method, can be highly counterproductive.

I'm sure I've written about this incident before here, but maybe it bears repeating--it's also a favorite story of mine.

Once Elder Porphyrios was blessing houses, one after another. Somehow, he came to bless a house of ill repute. After the house blessing, it was time for the girls to kiss the Cross. The madame objected, saying it wasn't right for them to kiss the Cross. But the elder said, "Whether or not it's right for them to kiss the Cross, I don't know." Then, he proceeded to give a sermon on his favrite subject, love for Christ. His words bore fruit. Later, several of those girls left their line of work and came to the Church.




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