Sunday, July 9, 2017
I like St Pacian. He talks to us today in A Year with the Church Fathers about a popular heresy at the time, which we should probably revisit today. In revisiting, I mean we should examine why it was false. But the reason I like St Pacian is because he uses withering sarcasm to address the objects of his letter.
The heresy he's addressing is the one that states that once someone becomes a Christian, they are no longer able to repent. They took the phrase about no longer sinning which Paul uses and ran with it... coming to the conclusion that once we're baptised we stop sinning. This is nonsense, as we all know. But so many people today, while maybe not SAYING those words, seem to believe them. They have zero tolerance for sinners. They seem to think that we all stop sinning when we become Christians. And if someone DOES sin, then they denounce them. It's a dangerous habit, because it seems to stem from pride. When we realize that we are all sinners, we see our fellow sinners in the light of forgiveness. But when we go around telling everyone else that they're sinning and they need to shape up, then we are putting ourselves in the place of judge.
That doesn't mean we can't say that certain activities are wrong. I don't have to pretend that it's OK to steal. I don't have to act like gossip is just fine. It's not necessary to say that lying is the way to go, that divorce is no big deal, and that gluttony is no longer a sin. Sins are still sins, and it doesn't help anyone to pretend they're not - especially not the sinner. But it's one thing to gently and lovingly admonish someone who is sinning... and it's another thing to denounce them and say they're not Christians anymore because they've sinned. God has bountiful mercy and forgiveness for us... and He doesn't just suggest that we do the same, He commands it. In fact, He makes our own forgiveness contingent on how we forgive other people. "Forgive our trespasses AS WE forgive those who trespass against us." It's a big deal to God that we forgive each other.
He goes on to say that we should trust the wisdom of the church against the teachings of one small group, or one man, but I think we've covered enough ground for today. Let's chew on the idea that once we are saved, we're still going to sin. And God will continue to forgive us, as long as we keep coming back and asking Him to. That's the difference between Peter and Judas.
God, thank You for Your forgiveness. Please help us to forgive other people the way You forgive us.