Reflection on the Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

“An elder gave this advice to a certain young man who asked him to tell him how to be saved: “Force yourself, my child, to do whatever the condemned do in prison. Hear them asking continually, with agony written on their faces: ‘Where is the Governor? When is he coming? Maybe he has granted a pardon.’ They tremble and cry, waiting for the moment when they will be led to the place of execution. Say in your mind, too: ‘My sins have condemned me. How shall I face the righteous Judge? How will I defend myself?’ Grieve and weep over your sins, so as to be saved.”

My guess this Saying is hard for us to read. Today wouldn’t we say to the young man that we are saved by God’s grace to forgive us our sins? That would be my response. But not that of this elder.

The elder does not take salvation for granted. When I read his prison analogy, I think of all those who have been on Death Row and were innocent, striving to have their innocence proven so that their sentence would be commuted. The effort that must take. The concentration. The hard work.

So too is this young man counseled to work on his salvation with grief and tears over his sins.

While I believe this young man is saved by God’s grace to forgive his sins and that the young man did not have to embrace a life of extremism, grieving and weeping over his sins, this Saying makes me ask myself how often do I recognize my own sins? How often do I grieve over them? Because even though I am forgiven, that does not let me off the hook to repent of each sin as I became aware of it and strive to do better.


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