Abba Pastor From the Paradise of the Fathers

Abba Pastor From the Paradise of the Fathers December 13, 2010

Abba Pastor said, “Judge not him who is guilty of fornication, if you are chaste, or you will break the law like him. For He who said “do not commit fornication” said also “Do not judge”.”

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.”

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  • 15
    11 “If your brother 12 sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
    16
    13 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
    17
    If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 14 If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

    • Doug

      Can you show us how the holy saints lived this out in their lives and demonstrated it in their wisdom?

      • doug

        I’d be more than happy to Henry, however I would first point out that this passage is commonly misunderstood. When Christ says to treat the unrepentant sinner as a tax collector or a Gentile, what comes to mind for me is how Christ treated tax collectors and Gentiles. After all, He was issuing the instructions, so it would make sense to treat his behavior as the model to follow, not some form of shunning or “inquisition.”

        Christ called tax collectors and Gentiles to repentance while showing them love. This is the model we are to follow.

        An example that comes to mind is St. Thomas Aquinas whose family sent a prostitute to his room to try to tempt him. He didn’t chase her out with a stick. He reasoned with her and showed compassion. She left a repentant Christian. St. Thomas More is another. His treatment of others as the Church in England went over to Protestantism is a wonderful model of Christian witness. Neither of them glossed over or ignored the reality before them, rather they gave loving witness to the truth. I’ve seen others in the Lives of the Saints but I don’t have the time right now to look them up. It shouldn’t be hard to find.

  • 15
    11 “If your brother 12 sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
    16
    13 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
    17
    If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 14 If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

    • Doug

      Can you show us how the holy saints lived this out in their lives and demonstrated it in their wisdom?

      • doug

        I’d be more than happy to Henry, however I would first point out that this passage is commonly misunderstood. When Christ says to treat the unrepentant sinner as a tax collector or a Gentile, what comes to mind for me is how Christ treated tax collectors and Gentiles. After all, He was issuing the instructions, so it would make sense to treat his behavior as the model to follow, not some form of shunning or “inquisition.”

        Christ called tax collectors and Gentiles to repentance while showing them love. This is the model we are to follow.

        An example that comes to mind is St. Thomas Aquinas whose family sent a prostitute to his room to try to tempt him. He didn’t chase her out with a stick. He reasoned with her and showed compassion. She left a repentant Christian. St. Thomas More is another. His treatment of others as the Church in England went over to Protestantism is a wonderful model of Christian witness. Neither of them glossed over or ignored the reality before them, rather they gave loving witness to the truth. I’ve seen others in the Lives of the Saints but I don’t have the time right now to look them up. It shouldn’t be hard to find.

  • Chris C.

    I wonder if Abba Pastor has the same attitude to sins other than fornication, like, oppressing the poor, waging unjust war, torture. Maybe we will learn more in future posts. If he is sincere I would expect he would. After all the principle, if I understand the post, is we shouldn’t judge, period.

    • Why not struggle with the text more? For example, what does it mean to cover sins? What exactly is going on? Think it through; don’t just be dismissive and sarcastic — think what is being said. It is not denying sin, nor is it saying sin is to be ignored. Rather it points out something about our treatment of it.

  • Chris C.

    I wonder if Abba Pastor has the same attitude to sins other than fornication, like, oppressing the poor, waging unjust war, torture. Maybe we will learn more in future posts. If he is sincere I would expect he would. After all the principle, if I understand the post, is we shouldn’t judge, period.

    • Why not struggle with the text more? For example, what does it mean to cover sins? What exactly is going on? Think it through; don’t just be dismissive and sarcastic — think what is being said. It is not denying sin, nor is it saying sin is to be ignored. Rather it points out something about our treatment of it.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Not sure what’s the point here. The language used is so imprecise as to be misleading;

    “Do not judge.”

    Do not the person, but certainly DO judge the act. Judging a person’s soul is God’s business, but making moral judgments about behavior is vital to every struggling soul. Fornication is serious sin. And if ignoring sin is okay, why did Jesus come?

    “…God will do the same about ours.”

    At the end of time all will be revealed, so God will reveal our sin anyway.

    Again, what point you are trying to make?

    • “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.”

      As for the point of this post — perhaps it is best for you to ponder it. What is this holy monk saying? What is his real meaning? I could offer many other posts on judgment from the holy monks.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Not sure what’s the point here. The language used is so imprecise as to be misleading;

    “Do not judge.”

    Do not the person, but certainly DO judge the act. Judging a person’s soul is God’s business, but making moral judgments about behavior is vital to every struggling soul. Fornication is serious sin. And if ignoring sin is okay, why did Jesus come?

    “…God will do the same about ours.”

    At the end of time all will be revealed, so God will reveal our sin anyway.

    Again, what point you are trying to make?

    • “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.”

      As for the point of this post — perhaps it is best for you to ponder it. What is this holy monk saying? What is his real meaning? I could offer many other posts on judgment from the holy monks.

  • Chris C.

    Henry, if he was making a point of saying “judge the sin but not the sinner” or something similar I would wholeheartedly agree, as there is no point to pompous grandstanding regarding the failures of others, but my point was that the principle referred to in the article did not seem to recognize the importance of clearly distinguishing good and evil, right and wrong and thereby could lead to being indifferent regarding such matters, and not just limited to sexual morality. My intent was to be a bit provocative but not sarcastic. This post does raise an importnat question which Christians do need to address in their attitudes on a regular basis.

    • Chris

      Once again, I suggest you wrestle with the text. This is not an “article,” this is from the Desert Fathers. What exactly is being said? What is the intent and meaning? Why does Jesus even say, “do not judge” and rejects the judgments given on public sinners? What was Jesus up with his words? What are the Desert Fathers showing us? Again, I suggest one goes deeper into this. Why are people so concerned with judging others and defending it so that it would appear Jesus really meant nothing with his words? I am not saying you are or are not — I am just suggesting it is best to wrestle with this. And as you can see, the source for this can be found on EWTN. There are more sayings on judgment in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, if you want to explore the issue further.

  • Chris C.

    Henry, if he was making a point of saying “judge the sin but not the sinner” or something similar I would wholeheartedly agree, as there is no point to pompous grandstanding regarding the failures of others, but my point was that the principle referred to in the article did not seem to recognize the importance of clearly distinguishing good and evil, right and wrong and thereby could lead to being indifferent regarding such matters, and not just limited to sexual morality. My intent was to be a bit provocative but not sarcastic. This post does raise an importnat question which Christians do need to address in their attitudes on a regular basis.

    • Chris

      Once again, I suggest you wrestle with the text. This is not an “article,” this is from the Desert Fathers. What exactly is being said? What is the intent and meaning? Why does Jesus even say, “do not judge” and rejects the judgments given on public sinners? What was Jesus up with his words? What are the Desert Fathers showing us? Again, I suggest one goes deeper into this. Why are people so concerned with judging others and defending it so that it would appear Jesus really meant nothing with his words? I am not saying you are or are not — I am just suggesting it is best to wrestle with this. And as you can see, the source for this can be found on EWTN. There are more sayings on judgment in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, if you want to explore the issue further.

  • I find the second quote a lot more troubling than the first. Especially when considered alongside the abuse crisis.

    I wonder where the requirement to not judge ends and our need to fight corruption and harm to others begins.

    Thank you for putting me in a contemplative mood today, Henry.

    • Adam

      You are welcome.

      And you are engaging this as I hope people would do: the sayings of the Desert Fathers, as wisdom sayings, demand contemplative engagement — they are not meant to put us at ease, nor even to be taken at face value, but rather, to get us out of our complacency: often they confuse us because they seem to counter our expectations, but that is what is to lead us to see something beyond the norm, and once we grasp what it is, we know it and not just as mere recitation: wisdom saying expect us to take them on and adapt them to show we understand them.

      It’s why I am not trying to give “answers” myself in this post though people want me to do so.

  • I find the second quote a lot more troubling than the first. Especially when considered alongside the abuse crisis.

    I wonder where the requirement to not judge ends and our need to fight corruption and harm to others begins.

    Thank you for putting me in a contemplative mood today, Henry.

    • Adam

      You are welcome.

      And you are engaging this as I hope people would do: the sayings of the Desert Fathers, as wisdom sayings, demand contemplative engagement — they are not meant to put us at ease, nor even to be taken at face value, but rather, to get us out of our complacency: often they confuse us because they seem to counter our expectations, but that is what is to lead us to see something beyond the norm, and once we grasp what it is, we know it and not just as mere recitation: wisdom saying expect us to take them on and adapt them to show we understand them.

      It’s why I am not trying to give “answers” myself in this post though people want me to do so.

  • brettsalkeld

    Awkward and unconventional presentations of Christian teaching are often useful in shaking us from complacency. Jesus knew this well. It is easy to forget how awkward and unconventional the Gospels present many of our Lord’s discourses. We prefer the sanitized version of the Gospel.

  • brettsalkeld

    Awkward and unconventional presentations of Christian teaching are often useful in shaking us from complacency. Jesus knew this well. It is easy to forget how awkward and unconventional the Gospels present many of our Lord’s discourses. We prefer the sanitized version of the Gospel.

  • Liam

    My sense is that sayings of this sort work best as a balance against our own imbalances, which will not only vary from person to person, but within a person from time to time and circumstance to circumstance.

    When our telling is based, however partly, on a self-serving motive, we have work to do on ourselves (with God’s grace, of course) that we cannot neglect by our telling, even if the telling is also partly grounded in true virtue.

  • Liam

    My sense is that sayings of this sort work best as a balance against our own imbalances, which will not only vary from person to person, but within a person from time to time and circumstance to circumstance.

    When our telling is based, however partly, on a self-serving motive, we have work to do on ourselves (with God’s grace, of course) that we cannot neglect by our telling, even if the telling is also partly grounded in true virtue.

  • WJ

    I wonder if this is not something like what one finds in certain 12-step groups–AA and SA come immediately to mind. These groups, formed for their members to combat the compulsions of alcohol and sex (really, gluttony and lust–the *first* two and most predominant vices according to Cassian), say things like: “We can only speak for ourselves.” By this they mean something like: “It is not for us to condemn another person who is engaging in the kind of behavior that we are ourselves trying to avoid; rather, we must focus on becoming more spiritually pure: our own action and recovery, rather than any condemnation, will help the soul still searching (and in many cases failing to find) a solution to her or his vice.”

    I am also struck by the fact that many of the Desert Fathers, like many of the Saints more generally, came more and more to appreciate their own failings and sinfulness, their utter dependence on the grace of Christ, the further they spiritually progressed, even to the point that they would often opine that perhaps even the city-dwellers living in luxuriousness and sin were saved before themselves. THe paradox, of course, is that they could only attain to this kind of *lived* dependence on grace having abandoned the city in the first place.

  • WJ

    I wonder if this is not something like what one finds in certain 12-step groups–AA and SA come immediately to mind. These groups, formed for their members to combat the compulsions of alcohol and sex (really, gluttony and lust–the *first* two and most predominant vices according to Cassian), say things like: “We can only speak for ourselves.” By this they mean something like: “It is not for us to condemn another person who is engaging in the kind of behavior that we are ourselves trying to avoid; rather, we must focus on becoming more spiritually pure: our own action and recovery, rather than any condemnation, will help the soul still searching (and in many cases failing to find) a solution to her or his vice.”

    I am also struck by the fact that many of the Desert Fathers, like many of the Saints more generally, came more and more to appreciate their own failings and sinfulness, their utter dependence on the grace of Christ, the further they spiritually progressed, even to the point that they would often opine that perhaps even the city-dwellers living in luxuriousness and sin were saved before themselves. THe paradox, of course, is that they could only attain to this kind of *lived* dependence on grace having abandoned the city in the first place.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Upon pondering the text:

    Given in the context — that of a comtemplative religious community, I can see how the holy monk’s words are not as imprecise as they appear to a Christian living in a modern, secular society.

    While among the ubiquitous religious sense and simplicity of contemplative monasticism, I can see their profundity.

    Out of context — in a superficial, profit-focused, hedonistic, self-oriented, porn-ridden, business workplace, where a fallen-away Catholic co-worker tells you he’s just moved in with his girlfriend, it sounds like a nice rationale to take an easy cop out.

    How are we to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world if we hide our light under a bushel basket?

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Upon pondering the text:

    Given in the context — that of a comtemplative religious community, I can see how the holy monk’s words are not as imprecise as they appear to a Christian living in a modern, secular society.

    While among the ubiquitous religious sense and simplicity of contemplative monasticism, I can see their profundity.

    Out of context — in a superficial, profit-focused, hedonistic, self-oriented, porn-ridden, business workplace, where a fallen-away Catholic co-worker tells you he’s just moved in with his girlfriend, it sounds like a nice rationale to take an easy cop out.

    How are we to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world if we hide our light under a bushel basket?