Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sayings of the Desert Christians: Judging Others 2

A brother asked abba Poemen, "If I see my brother sin, is it right to say nothing about it?" The old man replied, "Whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours."

Some thoughts:

Again let me stress that the place to find a discussion of doctrine is not the Desert Christians. We are reading stuff that was written before the canon of the New Testament as we know it today existed. We are reading stuff from the oral tradition of Christianity.

Now here in the 21st century it may be hard for us to trust oral tradition. Certainly as the written world has proliferated and spun off into the Age of Information where we know longer have to remember facts because we can just google for then. What we might forget though is that in the ancient world and indeed in many cultures today, the oral tradition was a sacred and holy obligation.

I say all this because I remember what a shock it was to read Abba Poeman's words the first time. God would hide my sin? Not expose it for all the world to see?
I had to stop and realize I was reading these words through the lens of my own place in time and history. That it was necessary for me to remember that these words were said and collected well before many of the paradigms of Christian thinking existed and which I take for granted.

This is theology in its rawness and simplest of definitions. "Speaking a word about God." We are reading Wisdom literature here. ( )

I make no claim to fully understand the Sayings so the desert Christians. I can only say how much they move me. Their goal is to become as much like Christ as they can. There is a literalistic interpretation and application of Jesus' teaching which appears radical and brand new to us in our time. Even distasteful, I daresay. I suspect we see here in the Desert Christians the roots of the concept of theosis (

So what does this Saying tell me? That the sin of others is none of my business because my own sin is between God and me; that while it is human nature to judge others, The Desert Christians teach me that human nature is not something to be excused, justified or rationalized. It is something to be transformed.


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