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The Easy Way

I didn't draw attention to the matter particularly.  If you make someone actually aware of his fault, this provokes a reaction in him that makes him unable to give it up later . . . And so, I wouldn't emphasize the specific fault.  This is very important.  Besides, the person is not exclusively responsible for his mistake.
 
I took this quote from “Wounded by Love,” a wonderful book on the life and spiritual counsel of the great Elder Porphyrios, a contemporary saint who reposed in 1991.  Regarded by many as perhaps the greatest elder of the twentieth century, he was a pious and gentle spiritual giant, immersed in the Scripture and divine services and consumed by a love of God and all creation.
 
Though strict on himself, he was gentle with his spiritual children.  He did not condemn them for their faults, nor did he use the weapons of guilt and judgment to bludgeon his spiritual charges.  His peaceful interior state was complemented by his irenic dealings with others and, in turn, helped to develop the spiritual peace of the the untold thousands of people fortunate enough to know him. 
 
Though the Elder did not deny the reality of sin, he did allow it to preoccupy him, either.  He was not a warrior against sin, a crusader against vice; instead, he was a lover of Christ and a proclaimer of the Gospel. 
 
The Elder used a wonderful metaphor to explain the difference:
 
Imagine a pitch-black room: the curtains drawn, the lights switched off.  Can you expel the darkness from the room?  Can you wave your hands about and claw at the blackness to somehow push it aside?
 
Elder Porphyrios realized that such a negative approach would fail: Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul.  Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.
 
He preferred what he called the easy way, to keep his eyes, not on sin, but on God by devoting himself to prayer, the divine services, and Scripture.  The soul, especially when it is sensitive, is filled with gladness and enthusiasm through love; it is strengthened and transforms, alters and transfigures all the negative and ugly things.
 
As much as this applies to our inner struggle, it may even be more relevant for the part we play in the lives of others.  Remember that the Elder, when hearing confessions, did not want to focus on a person’s sins because that provokes a reaction in him that makes him unable to give it up later.  Though we may have the best of intentions, we may do great damage if we approach other’s sins without the necessary sensitivity.
 
Our agressive moves against sin may actually move people further away from God rather than closer to Him. 
 
While our gentleness and compassion can draw people out of the darkness of their personal struggle and to Christ, our judgment and condemnation can push people deeper into their isolation and despair. 
 
How many people grew up in a household that was vehemently against alcohol, only to secretly get drunk with their friends every chance they got?  How many grew up in a household that didn’t tolerate dating at a young age, only to secretly hook up whenever the house was empty? 
 
Many worry that we have an unhealthy sexual culture centered on meaningless intimate encounters and crippling pornography addictions.  Perhaps it’s a reaction to the unhealthy culture that preceded it, one centered on puritanical sexual repression and shame?
 
Being against sin is not the same thing as being for God. 
 
Elder Porphyrios didn’t need to scold or condemn.  He preferred the easy way.  He invited people to come and see the crucified and resurrected Lord.  He could show people Christ because he himself knew Christ.  And this knowledge allowed him to be confident that, as soon as the Light of Christ enters into a person's heart, the darkness will dissolve. 
 
Do we know Christ?  Can we bring others to Him?  Are we confident that God can heal any wound, forgive any sin, and transform any life, no matter how broken? 
 
Or are we more interested in sin after all?
 
Originally posted at http://orthodoxyouthministry.blogspot.com/.
 
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