A TRUE STORY: Many centuries ago, there arrived a slave ship at a certain harbor in a city in which a pious Christian virgin lived. Her desire was to purchase a young female slave in order to bring her up in love and the ways of God. Purchasing another human sounds horrifying to our modern ears, but this woman was truly trying to prevent the young lady from enduring what could be a terrible fate at the hands of a merciless master.
The ship owner informed the woman he had two young girls, and the Christian lady purchased one of them. She raised the young girl in a loving Christian home in which the household operated a bit like a monastery.
The other girl was purchased by someone who was sort of like a pimp. He forced her to learn seductive dancing so that he could make money off of her by entertaining men. Such was her fate.
Here we have two young girls who were kidnapped from their homeland, probably due to war or ancient human trafficking. Neither one of them had any sort of choice about their lives nor where they would end up. One of them grew up to be a pious Christian, the other an adult entertainer.
Abba Dorotheos tells this story to remind us that we should not judge others based on where we see them right now in their lives because there have been a multitude of factors out of their control that have contributed to the way they presently are.
Children have no choice regarding their upbringing, and what happens when their young affects how they turn out. Why things happen the way they do is a great mystery. It is easy for us to pass judgment on someone living a lifestyle that we find repugnant. But we usually have no idea what situations in life brought them to such a point, and we know their upbringing, we still don’t know the extent of what is going on inside of them.
God is the only one who knows our upbringing, what is in our hearts, and how we would have turned out if things had been different. Therefore, even for committing the same sins, God’s judgment will vary significantly from person to person.
It is for God alone to judge, to justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution and our preparedness, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that he alone has.
WHEN WE NOTICE THE SINS OF OTHERS
As I mentioned in my first post, we should use our creative energy to make excuses for others. If we fail to do so, then we will inevitably fall into judging others, which in turn, pushes us away from the grace of God.
We are going to notice faults in others, even if we try hard not to form judgments. One way that we can battle judging others is to remember that we know nearly nothing about what has happened inside someone due to the circumstances they encountered in their formative years, or even what has been going on inside of them during the recent years.
One of the best things we can say when we see someone committing sin is, “If I had the same upbringing and experiences in life as him, I would have turned out much worse. Lord have mercy on him, for he knows not what he is doing.” When we can think that with all sincerity, then I think we will not judge the person, but be filled with love for them.
Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings, translated by Eric P. Wheeler, Cistercian Publications 1977.
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