Monday, December 2, 2013

Sins of the tongue ( Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk )

Treat every man not with flattery, but simply, just as you do yourself. As you appear to him outwardly, be so inwardly as well; and what you say to him and what you have on your lips must be in your heart also. For flattery and treachery are the works of pestilent people, and the devil lives in their heart teaching them flattery and treachery so as to deceive us.

Keep, then, from treating your neighbor craftily and treacherously, lest you give place to the devil in your heart, and lest he overcome you and take you captive.

Be extremely careful not to offend anyone in word or deed, for it is a grave sin. When someone is offended, God, Who loves the man, is also offended, for there can be no offending man without offending God. Whoever sins against man, also sins against God. This is a serious matter, as you can see for yourself. And when you offend your neighbor, straightway humble yourself before him and beg forgiveness of him with humility, lest you fall under God's just condemnation.

Keep from prying into other people's affairs, for such prying gives occasion for slander, judgment and other grievous sins. Why do you need to be concerned about others? Know and examine your own self.

Recall your own past sins and purge them with repentance and contrition of heart, and you will not look at what other people do. Look often into your own heart and examine that most ruinous evil hidden there, and you will have sufficient material for investigation. For we can never examine our heart without knowing precisely that every evil is contained in it.

This investigation is profitable to you, for it gives birth to humility and to fear and watching over one's own self, and to sighing and prayer to God. But examination of the sins of others is the beginning of every iniquity and it is a curiosity hateful to God and man. Then guard yourself against it.

If you see or hear someone sin, keep from slandering him and judging him. You tell someone else about him, he tells it to another, the other to the third, the third to the fourth, and so everyone will come to know it and be tempted. And they will judge the one who sinned, which is a very serious thing. And you will be the cause of all this, by publishing your brother's sin. Slanderers are like lepers that harm others by their foul odor, or like those stricken by the plague who carry their disease from place to place and destroy others. Keep yourself, then, from slandering your neighbor, lest you sin gravely and give someone else cause for sin.

Likewise keep from judging him, because he stands or falls before his Lord (cf. Rom. 14:4), and because you yourself are a sinner. A righteous man has no need to judge and condemn another, how much less should a sinner judge a sinner.

And to judge people is a matter for Christ alone. To Him judgement is given by His Heavenly Father, and He shall judge the living and the dead, before Whose judgement you yourself will stand.

Keep, then, from usurping to yourself the authority of Christ, which is a very serious thing, and from judging people like unto yourself, lest you appear at that Judgement with this most abominable sin, and lest you be rightly condemned to everlasting punishment. Turn your eyes and mind, then, on your own self and examine yourself, and reproach and accuse yourself before God for your sins, which requires the labor of repentance. Reproach and accuse yourself before God and beg mercy of Him, as the publican did, so that you may be justified by Him.

Listen to what Christ the Lord says to the condemned, "And why dost thou behold the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and shalt then thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of brother's eye" (Mt. 7:3-5).

You see that those that judge and condemn others are hypocrites or false Christians. These do not know themselves and their own sins, although outwardly they may appear as saints.

True Repentance ( Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk )

To those that have sinned after holy Baptism the only remaining hope is true repentance. Glory to God for that! Glory to God, that we have not yet perished, O sinners! A hope yet remains. God's compassions have not yet come to an end. Repentance is still preached to sinners. The poor are still given glad tidings. The Heavenly King still proclaims His mercy everywhere. The doors of compassion are not yet shut. The grace of God is still open to all. The Gospel and the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world are still preached. The Kingdom of God is still proclaimed.

Sinners that repent are still saved; both publicans and fornicators cleansed by repentance enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The compassionate God still calls to Himself all that have turned away, and He awaits them and promises them mercy. The loving Father still receives His prodigal sons come back from a far country and He opens the doors of His house and clothes them in the best robe, and gives them each a ring on their hand and shoes on their feet and commands all the saints to rejoice in them.

"Rejoice, ye angels, and all My elect! Sinners return to Me, men, My creatures, made in My image and likeness, they that have perished are now saved, they that were dead are alive again, they that were lost are found." Glory to His goodness! Glory to His love for man! Glory to His compassion! Glory to His bounties! Poor sinners, why do we yet tarry in a distant country and not go toward our Father? Why do we perish from hunger? Why do we fill ourselves with iniquities as with husks? In the house of our Father is everything in abundance. There, even the hired servants have enough and to spare.

Our Father awaits us with great zeal and desire, and with love He will see us returning from afar, and He will look upon us with compassionate eyes, and we shall be dear to Him, and He will fall on our neck running and embrace us and kiss us with His holy love. He will not reproach us, and He will no longer remember our sins and iniquities, and all the holy Angels and all His elect will begin to rejoice over us.

Let us come to ourselves, and arise, and go and hasten to our Father, and let every one say to Him with humility and sorrow, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, And am no more worthy to be called Thy son; make me as one of Thy hired servants" (Lk. 15:18-19). Let us hasten, hasten, O sinners, while the time has not yet passed, while the Father awaits, while the doors of His holy house are not shut. Let us repent while the mercy of God still operates, lest we experience the operation of God's righteousness, eternal judgement.

Do not despair of whatever sins you may have committed since Baptism and find yourself in true repentance, but await God's mercy. However many and however great and burdensome your sins may be, with God there is greater mercy. Just as His majesty is, so likewise is His mercy. Only guard yourself from sinning henceforth, and walk according to the aforementioned points.

If you have transgressed in this as a man, and have sinned, do not despair. But at that very moment, confess your sin and fall down with humility before the compassionate eyes of God and ask mercy with the voice of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Lk. 18:13), and your sins will be forgiven you.

True repentance demands that a man turn away from sins and from the vanity of this world and turn toward God with all his heart, that he be changed within, and that he become different from what he was before, and so work out his salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12), and so endeavor to do nothing else but only to please God and so be saved. For if you wish to be in true repentance and so be saved, change yourself and be renewed, and become different from what you were before, and take care for nothing else but only to please God and be saved, and so shall you be a new creature in Christ. For every Christian that wishes to be a true Christian, and not false, ought to be a new or renewed man or a new creature. Do not, then, indulge your flesh, and do not do everything it may desire. It must be crucified "with its affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24) when you wish to be a Christian, that is, Christ's. Much effort and labor is needed, for a man to be changed and to be the good tree that brings forth good fruit. Strive, then, for nothing else but to change, renew, and correct yourself. And pray for this, and sigh often and with all zeal to Christ the Lord, that He Himself might renew you and make you good, for without Him our renewal and correction cannot take place. And when you are renewed inwardly and good, then your outward life and works shall also be good.

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk
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