Reflections on a Saying of the Desert Christians: Abba Kopris

“The Fathers of the skete once gathered to speak among themselves about spiritual things, and forgot to invite Abba Kopris. They began to discuss the person of Melchizidek and did not come to agreement in their opinions. Then they remembered Abba Kopris and sent summons to him so that they could get his opinion. When he heard of the cause of their disagreement and the subject about which they had idled away so many hours arguing, he struck himself three times on the mouth and said: “Woe to you, monk. You have set aside that which God has asked of you and you have sought to find those things which He will never ask of you.”

“Hearing his wise words, the other elders left their gathering and returned to their cells, pensive.”

Simple fact.  The Fathers of the skete were wasting their time because Genesis simply does not give us enough information about that fascinating Melchizadek. So of course, they cannot come to an agreement.

When I was in seminary and I daresay it is still true, the same students would engage in the same debates over and over and over. Baptism: sprinkling or ducking?  Baptism: adult vs infant? Communion: sacrament or memorial? I was at first sucked into these discussions and then I realized what a waste of time they were and how much they detracted my attention from where it needed to be.

I said to those who would try to draw me in , “The church has been arguing these issues since the Reformation and if we have not arrived at the answers since then, chances are we never will.  Jesus says to baptize, so let’s just do it however our faith tradition tells us to do it.  Jesus tells us to “take and eat, take and drink” so let’s just take, eat and drink as our faith tradition tells us to and let’s allow other faith traditions to follow their practices.”

Nowhere that I can find in Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament that it ever says we are to debate the imponderable issues we can never have one answer to.  Some things are beyond human comprehension. 

Such discussions also serve as distractions or even red herrings to draw us from what God requires of us:  love of God, love of neighbor, conversion of life, a commitment to obey God at all costs.

Debate is often, not always, but often fruitless and ego-driven. A spirit of competition rules us in debate, not a spirit of peace and fellowship.


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