Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A present day monk tells the following beneficial story: “I was once walking with a very pious and humble man, when we were stopped on the street by an old man distributing small pamphlets. The old man asked us, ‘Are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus?’

“My humble companion said, ‘I only know that I am a sinner.’

“The old man answered my friend: ‘Jesus has saved me. I have the assurance of his salvation. I have conquered pride, lust, and sin. Praise God.’

“At these words, my companion very abruptly grabbed me by the arm, saying to the old man, ‘Leave us alone.’ But as we walked my humble friend began to cry bitterly. Embarrassed that others were watching, he controlled himself.

“I asked him: ‘Why are you crying like this?’

“He quietly answered, As that man told us that, a strange voice in my mind translated his words, so that he said, “I have saved myself. I have assured myself. Pride, lust, and sin no longer bother me, for they have conquered me. God must praise me.” The mere thought of his blasphemy and the state of his soul crushed me. God forgive us all.”

People who hold to Reformed Theology may have a problem with this Saying.  Evangelicals and Fundamentalists may have a problem with this Saying.  This of us who may identify as catholic, be we Anglican, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Episcopalian, Orthodox may have less trouble with it.

Clearly, the man with the pamphlets is evangelizing people walking by. He offers a brief testimony and the humble man accompanying the monk bursts into tears.  Why is that?

The sense I have of this is that the evangelist’s words were all about himself.  “I this, I that” without any mention of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.  It is emphasizing himself, not God and that is what grieved the humble man. He perceived the evangelist to be relying on himself and not on God.

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