For the Bride: Radical Trust

The church’s perrennial call to repentance is rooted in our belief in God’s willingness and ability to forgive sin.  Judgmentalism was, however, eschewed by the early Christians because they believed it was a diminishment of that belief.

One of the desert fathers was asked about this, and his reply was in essence, “If God has told us to forgive one another seventy times seven, don’t you think God will forgive anyone at least that much, and even more?”  That was Abba Poemen’s way of keeping the redemptive center in God and not putting it in himself. 

The early desert fathers heard the confessions of others, but they did not initiate the call for repentance.  That was the prerogative of the Spirit in the work we call ‘conviction.’  If people were not under conviction, it meant that there was more work to be done by the Spirit–or–it meant that one Christian’s assessment of another might be incorrect, and the other person did not need to repent of whatever the first Christian thought he/she did.  Either way, the fellow Christian more nearly played the position of catcher, not pitcher, on God’s team.

Compared to our predecessors in the faith, we are too prone to authorize ourselves to be judge-and-jury over someone else.  We are too quick to name the sin of another and prescribe the act that will convince us the person has repented.  All of this, while being a reflection on us and our tendency to be judgmental, is also an indication that we have lost our radical trust in God to deal with the world and the Church.  By refraining from judgmentalism, the early Christians believed they were affirming their faith in God as the One Who will not fail to deal with whatever is amiss.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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