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On Not Condemning our Neighbour

(Letters from the Desert - Saints Barsanuphius & John)

Saint John the Prophet writes: "If someone is doing something inappropriate, then we cannot but condemn the act as inappropriate. Otherwise, how can we avoid the harm that comes from it, according to the voice of the Lord, who said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves; you will know them by their fruits" (Mat 7:15-16).

"However, the one who is actually doing the inappropriate deed should not be condemned, according to, "Do no judge, so that you are not judged" (Mat 7:1), but also because we should regard ourselves as being more sinful than all others.

"Furthermore, we should not ascribe the sin to our brother, but to the devil who deceived him.

"This happened once to Saint Barsanuphius, for once as he was walking past the hippodrome he entered inside, fully conscience of what he was doing. And when he saw each of the competitors striving to overtake and triumph over one another, he said to his thought: "Do you see how the followers of the devil eagerly race against each other? How much more so should we who are the heirs of the kingdom of heaven?"

"And as a result of that spectacle, he left that place more eager in his spiritual journey and ascetic struggle.

"Therefore, let us imitate the humility of the Publican and condemn ourselves in order to be justified; and let us avoid the arrogance of the Pharisee in order not to be condemned. (Luke 18:10-14)."