Good and bad sins?

16 May
Nothing so clearly discovers a spiritual man as his treatment of an erring brother.”   
Saint Augustine
Authors story
           These words came from a bishop also called Augustine of Hippo from North Africa during early church history. Some describe his writing as one of the most important writings after the Bible, for “Confession”, “Retractions” and the best known “City of God” are all works that together with his eloquence defended Christian faith against one of its first major enemies in shape of diverse offshoots of Christianity itself such as Manichaeism, Donatists, Pelagians as well as local Roman paganism.
           He was brought up in a family where his mom was a devoted Christian who prayed for him unceasingly and his dad believed in several Punic gods. As a young man Augustine left for his studies to city of Carthage where he lived considerably wild life and thus being lead by the mainstream of his peers he soon left his mothers religion completely and buried himself in teachings of Manichaean philosophers. When his mother found out about his Manic faith she threw him out of the house so he had to move to Carthage where he was teaching at the time. Later on in his life, being in a high position of a professor of rhetoric in Milan he was still struggling with the fleshly passions of his youth.
One afternoon, he wrestled anxiously about such matters while walking in his garden. Suddenly he heard a child’s sing-song voice repeating, “Take up and read.” On a table lay a collection of Paul’s epistles he’d been reading; he picked it up and read the first thing he saw: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites” (Romans 13:13–14).
He later wrote, “No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.
Right after he converted, he experienced a great deal of sorrow in his life, for after leaving Milan behind, during his lengthy journey home his mother, son and a close friend died. This by no means discouraged him, rather on the contrary prompted him to put himself into deeper studies of scriptures. Within next five years he became the bishop of Hippo and started his life-lasting apologetic fight against the surrounding ideologies.
He recognized pride as a beginning of all sin which he found abundance of in other self-interested philosophies. In his first writing “Confessions” he undergone self-examination and acknowledged Gods grace through Christ in his own life, which leaves no space for pride, but points entirely towards Jesus‘ humility.
             I believe Augustine knew very well what he was saying by this quote, simply because he had experienced, being refused (for his hedonistic life by those closest to him) as well as refusing and correcting others who were mistaken regarding the Christian doctrines. There are some clear guidelines in the Bible we are to follow in the correction process. Yet all of them are embracing love as the central requirement for successful admonishment. He saw that this is a delicate area which needs to be done gently, respectfully and humbly, for many have knowledge, but lack the spirituality that ought to accompany it, without which scholarship serves merely as an autotelic tool in hunt for pomposity and pride. 
What does it mean for you?

           The main thoughts behind the quote can naturally stay similar, for there are several points that can appear useful, be picked up and be put to practice by almost any member of a church. However speaking only generally about pride, love or spirit can only hardly address a specific problem and be with ease applied in a certain area of a church life. When addressing by wide scope it can easily happen that no clear outcome originates, thereby I would like to go here a little bit more concrete.

            In variety of all mistakes and sins Christian person can fall into there are some which would be categorized by many as the “serious ones” or the “really bad ones”. While slandering or lying often passes among us by nearly any arrest, stealing and overindulgence of alcohol is taken much more seriously. Still the top of the hierarchy of the “bad trespasses” is rounded off by sexual sins. Why is it that we almost completely overlook backbiting and then in same way almost completely condemn sexual sin? Are not all sins equal? One might argue that the sins are equal but the consequences of each one of them is different. Well this can be true, but does it bear any relevance regarding our discussed matter? John Chrysostom, an early church father, expressed his opinion in one of his speeches like this: “Slander is worse than cannibalism”. If we are to give it a second thought we should ask ourselves how much division, hostility and malice is caused just because of gossiping? Do we speak in our churches more words of edification or we rather go for the “hot news”? There are many people that deeply swim in waters of backbiting and there is only a very little attention given to it. It sadly became a widely accepted element of a common church culture even though its effects are dreadful. “If what I am about to say does not pass these tests,” says Alan Redpath ”I will keep my mouth shut!

T – Is it true?

H – Is it helpful?

I – Is it inspiring?

N – Is it necessary?

K – Is it kind?

Is this also a standard we live up to today?

         On the other hand I opened the topic of sexual sins which is taken often very seriously. If it becomes public that someone cheated on their spous
e or an engaged couple had fell for premarital sex, usually it seems like from that moment onwards, there has been an irreversible curse imposed on them which carries with them for many years if not until end of their lives in a form of an odd inferior church opinion. Frequently couple or a person needs to move to an entirely new location and to a different church to be again accepted in a fellowship of believers. All in all,  is not this somewhat condemning treatment?   Psalmist writes in chapter 79:8: “Do not remember against us our former iniquities…

           Saint Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo was a man who experienced a long-lasting sexual immorality as well as a tremendous walk with God in shape of a fruitful apologetic ministry. Now, if I am to say something, the only sure thing I can offer is humble, respectful and God’s will seeking attitude that must be present. For we never know what He has prepared in lives of each one of us.

I suggest we get into a habit of asking ourselves a question regarding our attitude towards these “different” sins, so we would not all of a sudden find ourselves in the midst of either complete acceptance or categorical resentment of our erring brothers and sisters.

Douglas, J. D., Comfort, P. W., & Mitchell, D. (1992). Who’s Who in Christian history. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.
Galli, M., & Olsen, T. (2000). 131 Christians everyone should know. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs. Leominster: Day One Publications.
Muck, T. C. (1989). Vol. 19: Sins of the body: Ministry in a sexual society. The Leadership library. Carol Stream, Ill.; Waco,
Tex.: Christianity Today; Word Books; Distributed by Word Books.

 Written by Peter Makovíni
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Ethics, Theology


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