For the Bride: Don’t Feed the Animals

The title of today’s post is often found at zoos, public parks, and other places where animals are found.  The sign could have been placed in the hermit caves and monastic communities of early Christianity.

These Christians believed that judgmentalism was a food which fed the voracious appetite of egotism, destroying the spirit of humility necessary for genuine Christianity and authentic Christian community.  With soul-bellies full of judgment, the early desert mothers and fathers believed Christians would become bloated with attitudes and actions which would destroy ascesis–the essential dying to self from which Christian love is resurrected.

The gravity and severity of the sin of judgmentalism was believed so deeply by these early Christians that they believed (as Abba Xanthius put it), “A dog is better than I am [when I am judgmental], for a dog has love and does not judge.”

This view has fallen so far off the radar screen of contemporary Christianity, we read sayings like this from the desert mothers and fathers and conclude they were just weird.  But the truth is, they were Christians who read Matthew 7:1, and believed Jesus meant what he said.

Ironically, these early Christians were/are the true conservatives, treating judgmentalism as a deadly sin.  We are the ones who allow our pride, hierarchialism, and self-righteousness to produce lists of when it is okay to judge–and worse, that we are actually doing God a service when we do so.

With our armour of arrogance in place, it takes nothing short of an act of God to have the message of non-judgment penetrate our hearts and direct our minds.  But when it does, we will post a “Do Not Feed the Animals” sign on the door of our soul, and tell the beasts to go away so that the will and work of God can be done.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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One Response to For the Bride: Don’t Feed the Animals

  1. Mama Karen says:

    Dr. Roberta Bondi first introduced me to the Dessert Fathers and Mothers. You have reminded me of their rich theology and deeply compassionate faith. Whenever I feel the need to judge my judgmental brothers and sisters, I will remember to let God feel my soul with love and kindness for all. The difficulty is how to engage in a dialogue of mutual respect and care with those we disagree with deeply without being judgmental.

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