Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Covering Another's Sin

Scripture Readings for July 3, 2012

Romans 14:9-18 (Epistle)

9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:

“As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Matthew 12:14-16, 22-30 (Gospel)

14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. 15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16 Yet He warned them not to make Him known, 22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”. 25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.


It is inevitable that we make judgments. Judgments are precisely what we are required todo from moment to moment, in order to get anything accomplished. For example, if we are sitting, and we want to stand and get something to write on, then we must judge: is it better to get this writing pad or that one? What color pen should I use? Should I write in cursive? Where should I stand to write? &c.... all of those decisions are based on judgments.  Nevertheless, there are other kinds of judgments that we are simply neither equipped nor authorized to make. In the passage above St. Paul is referring to this kind of unauthorized judgment; he specifically has in mind our judgment of the goodness or the acceptability to God of another person who is in the church. That kind of judgment belongs to God alone according to St. Paul. To thwart this temptation St. Paul says:

"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore,
but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block
or a cause to fall in our brother’s way."

I would paraphrase St. Paul by saying, "Judging the state of another Christian's soul and standing with God is tricky business, don't do it." It is  undeniable however that there are times that it must be done, such as in cases of open sin or heresy. When it must be done then there is a process established by the church in her canons. As far as the average Christian is concerned, we should take note that the witness of the Saints has been to err towards the verdict of  “not guilty,” knowing that in the end, the Lord will judge all things.

From The Sayings of The Dessert Fathers:

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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