From the Sayings of the Desert 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.’
They said of Abba Macarius that he became as it is written a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.
The early monks and nuns who lived in the Egyptian desert managed to get to the heart of not judging others, or of thinking that you or I are somehow a better person. The gentleness which they show when dealing with the faults of others is quite staggering. It is a truly difficult thing to do: not to judge others, but to treat everyone with love, forgiving them as we hope to be forgiven ourselves for the manifold sins which we commit on a daily basis. But to live out God’s love and forgiveness in your life is exactly what Jesus calls us to do. It is the narrow gate, and the way is HARD, and those who find it are few, but we should not let the difficult of living the Christian life authentically put us off trying to do it in the first place, or indeed persevering with it when times are hard.
It is hard, I struggle with it and fail often, but I know that as a Christian I am part of a community who can and indeed will forgive me, and so I can keep trying and failing, and trying some more. It is this through this process of trying, failing and trying again, that we as a community of Christians, as the Body of Christ, His Church, can help each other to progress in the Christian life, and in our individual vocations. We will all fail, but if we love and forgive each other, then we can live out God’s love in the world. We will have to live with upset and disappointment on a daily basis, but if we are rooted in the wellspring of divine love, fed with living water, then we can flourish.
What is more, in living out God’s love in our lives, we have an authenticity, an attractiveness which is captivating, which satisfies the deep spiritual hunger and thirst out there in the world, amongst those who have begun to see that the ways of the world are futile, empty and vain. We can offer a glimpse of the kingdom of God enfleshed in our own lives, and we can know that we are doing God’s will, that we are living as God intends to. We will be doing for others what we wish they would do for us. We have discovered the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in a field, and are freely sharing it with others, so that they may do the same.
We need to have the confidence to do this, a confidence which comes from God and not from mankind. It isn’t easy, especially when the wider church appears to be giving us stones when we as Catholic Anglicans have asked for bread. But we must judge them, no we are to love them, as there is no sin which God cannot forgive, even heresy, or opening the episcopate to women. We need to let go of the bitterness, of the pain which we feel, in the sure and certain knowledge that it is as nothing compared to the pain experienced by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as he hung upon the cross, wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. For in loving all as Christ loves us, and sharing that love with others, there is nothing which the world or even the Church of England can do to us. We have our treasure, which we keep in the clay jars of our weak, feeble and sinful lives. But our joy and our hope as Christians is in something more, something greater. If the Church is the body of Christ, wounded, and ill-treated, then we know that we await a glory, a bliss which surpasses all that we know or can hope to understand.
So, let us live out God’s love and forgiveness in our lives, filled with joyful hope as we await the coming of God’s kingdom, and in the knowledge that it is very near, it is among us, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever.