HIS HOLINESS POPE SHENOUDA III
: Ten Concepts
: H. H. Pope Shenouda III
: Dr. Wedad Abbas
: Sister Sawsan
: J.C.Center - Heliopolis
: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia, Cairo
: First - August 1994
Legal Deposit No
: 97 7/5319/ 2 6/ 9
: COEPA 1997
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
THE CONCEPT OF POWER
Power is one of God's attributes:
Sources of power:
The power of the spirit:
The power of the nerves:
The power of love :
The power of the personality:
The Will power:
The power of prayers and faith:
THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM
God likes everyone to be free:
Freedom necessitates accountability and responsibility:
You are not entitled to absolute freedom:
Restrictions against freedom are for your benefit :
Real freedom is to free yourself of your faults:
He who is freed from sin internally, can use external freedom in
the right way:
Some may restrain themselves to attain real freedom:
THE CONCEPT OF REST & FATIGUE
Types of rest:
The bodily rest:
Fatigue between the self and the spirit:
Fatigue in the field of ministry:
THE CONCEPT OF AMBITION
Difference between the two kinds of ambition :
THE CONCEPT OF SIN
Sin is against God:
Sin with regard to man:
THE CONCEPT OF LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
Love is due to God in the first place:
Kinds of love:
The relationship with God:
THE CONCEPT OF OFFENSE
What is an offense :
Knowledge of sin:
Giving another name to sin:
Kinds of offenses:
Culture and the Mass Media:
The adults and the young:
THE CONCEPT OF MEEKNESS
The importance of meekness:
What is gentleness?
Meekness and courage:
THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH & JUSTICE
Truth is fact:
The seriousness of half facts:
Truth versus Falsehood:
Flattery also is against truth:
Truth is God:
THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE
Kinds of knowledge:
Knowledge of trivialities:
Concepts often differ in our present time:
Everyone expresses his own views and there might be a
contradiction among these different views, whether from
writers, academics, philosophers or others... This may
lead the young and the old to confusion and inquire -
what is the truth?
So, this book is issued to be part of the curriculum
taught in church education and Sunday School.
In this book, we speak to the youth about the concept of
power, its sources, its characteristics: the power of the
spirit, the power of the self, will-power, power of the
nerves, power of the personality as a whole, power of
prayers, power of faith ... for power is not confined to
physical power! ...
We speak also about freedom; its concept and limits and
how freedom is not absolute but should respect others'
rights and observe law and public order as well as God's
Commandments... It is such inner freedom released from
faults and not harming itself.
In this book we explain also the concept of rest and
fatigue, and how the body might suffer to make the spirit
content and the conscience peaceful, and how a person
might work hard to give others comfort. The concept of
bodily rest and eternal rest is also explained.
The book explains the concept of ambition - whether it is
wrong or right.
The concept of sin, its danger and impact on a person are
The book clarifies the concept of offense, what may be
deemed offensive; whether offense is a cause for sin, and
leads to and facilitates sin, even when a person might not
be guilty of offending others; as well as what the sources
and kinds of offense there are.
There is also an explanation of the concept of love and
friendship, and the difference between love and lust, and
the true friendship which does no harm.
The book tells also about the concept of meekness; its
importance; the difference between meekness and
tenderness; the relation between meekness and courage;
and the cases in which one loses one's meekness.
The Concept of truth with all its meanings is also
explained in this book; it speaks about the danger of half-
facts, the relation between truth and justice, protecting
others rights, the significance of defending truth and how
this can be effected. It also states that truth is God, and
whoever goes astray from truth, goes astray from God.
The book concludes with a chapter dealing with
knowledge: whether useful or harmful knowledge.
Finally we pray to God that this book will be fruitful for
the benefit of our people and children.
Pope Shenouda III
THE CONCEPT OF POWER
Power is of course a desirable attribute. Every one likes
to be powerful and God's children are supposed to be
To speak about the concept of power, we shall deal with
the following points:
Power is one of God's attributes:
- In the Trisagion we say, "Holy God, Holy Almighty..."
- In the Pascha Hymn we say, "Thine is the power and
the glory... "
- We conclude the Lord's Prayer with the words: "For
Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory"
- The divine inspiration, speaking about the Spirit of God,
said, "the Spirit of counsel and might" (Is. 11:2). The
creation process, the raising of the dead, and miracles are
proofs of God's power.
Since God is mighty and we are created in His image and
likeness (Gen.:27), then we are supposed to be mighty
God is Almighty and He is also the source of true
That is why we sing in the Pascha Hymn the words of the
psalmist, "The Lord is my strength and song"
(Ps.118:14). So the divine inspiration says, in the Book
of Zechariah the Prophet, " 'Not by might nor by power,
but by My Spirit', says the Lord" (Zech. 4:6).
It is also stated in the Holy Bible, "and God has chosen
the weak things of the world to put to shame the things
which are mighty" (1 Cor. 1:27). But why?
St. Paul the Apostle says, "that the excellence of the
power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7).
In order for God to be the source of our power, St. Paul
the Apostle says, "I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
It is true that we wish to be powerful, but let God be the
source of our power. He gives us power. Let us not
depend on our own power but on His power. Let us
stand before Him weak and take power from Him.
I remember once I wrote in my notes : Satan said to God,
'Leave the powerful to me, I am capable of dealing with
them. As for those who feel their weakness, they resort
to You God, and fight me with the power they take from
You, so I can't overcome them'.
Sources of power:
Of course the main source of power is God alone, as the
Lord said to His disciples, "But you shall receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8), and
St. Paul the Apostle said, "I can do all things through
Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
Sources which people might mention with respect to a
strong personality are : mind, soul, will and spirit - all
these without God will be of no avail; for the Lord said,
"Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). But if
God's power enters your life, it will appear in all such
matters. So, ask God to give you the power that you
may sing this beautiful hymn: "The Lord is my strength
and song, and He has become my salvation" (Ps.
Some people may wonder about the words of the Lord
Jesus Christ to His disciples, "he who believes in Me, the
works that I do he will do also; and greater works than
these he will do" (John 14:12)! But there is an important
essential difference :
The Lord Christ works miracles by His own power,
but the believers work miracles by His power. The
miracle worked by them might be very great, but it is not
by their own power.
It is by the power of the Lord who works within them,
who said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
God's Children are supposed to be powerful, provided
that God be the source of their power. They should not
depend on, or take pride in, their own power.
This is an essential requirement for the power of
Take for example David: undoubtedly he was weak if
compared to Goliath the valiant who was boastful of his
power, but David ascribed all his power to God. He said
to that valiant, "You come to me with a sword, with a
spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name
of the Lord of hosts... This day the Lord will deliver you
into my hand; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will
give you into our hands." (1 Sam. 17:45-47). Thus David
won over Goliath, because Goliath fought with his human
power, while David fought with God's power.
The spiritual persons, in all their works, ascribe
power to God.
When St. Peter and St. John healed the lame man at the
gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, people were
filled with wonder and amazement at the miracle. So, the
two saints said to them, "why do you marvel at this? Or
why look so intently at us, as though by our own power
or godliness we had made this man walk?" (Acts 3:12).
Then the two apostles drew people's attention to the
Lord Christ whom they crucified, saying, "through faith
in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see
and know... has given him this perfect soundness in the
presence of you all" (Acts 3:16).
God's power is unlimited and human beings are
powerful through God.
When consecrating monks we read a chapter from the
epistle of St. Paul the Apostle which says, "Finally, my
brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His
might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be
able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph.
6:10,11), as if we say to them: You are about to enter
into battle with Satan and his forces and you need power.
The power which you need should be the divine power.
What then are the characteristics of this power which
they should acquire ?
The power of the spirit:
Some young people think that power means bodily
strength which wrestlers and other sports people have, or
the kind of strength which Samson the Valiant had (Judg.
However, bodily strength is not everything. Many of
those who have bodily strength are weak spiritually.
Samson the Valiant who overcame many people through
his bodily strength, was weak before the temptation of
Delilah. He weakened before her and disclosed his secret
to her, so she cut off his hair and delivered him to his
enemies who plucked out his eyes, bound him with fetters
and made him grind in the prison (Judg. 16:19-21).
And David who defeated Goliath the Valiant (1 Sam. 17)
was from his boyhood, "a mighty man of valor, a man of
war" (1 Sam. 16:18). This mighty man was weak before
the beauty of Bathsheba, so he fell and sinned and
deserved to be punished by God because he gave great
occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme
(2 Sam. 12:7-14).
Here we quote the words of St. John the Beloved to the
youth in his first epistle: "I have written to you, young
men, because you are strong, and the word of God
abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one"
(1 John 2:14).
There is another kind of power, which is to overcome the
wicked one (Satan)
The powerful person then, is the person who
He who overcomes sin overcomes because God's word
abides in him, and God's commandment abides in his
heart. On the other hand a person who is overcome by
sin cannot be powerful. He has a weak point through
which the devil can enter and defeat him.
A powerful spirit overcomes the body, the material
and the devil.
Whatever spiritual wars you face, you should resist even
to bloodshed (Heb. 12:4), and seek God's assistance until
you overcome, just as Joseph the righteous man
overcame (Gen. 39).
A powerful spirit does not let itself be mastered to any
habit, nor does it accept to be defeated, no matter how
difficult the struggle may be, or how deceitful the devil
may be. The spirit is more powerful than Satan's
temptation, his deceit and his wiles.
A person who is overcomed by any habit is a weak
For example, a person who is overcome by the habit of
smoking or drinking, or subjugated to addiction, is not a
powerful person because he is weak before all such
habits. He has no will power before these habits, but the
habit or addiction has dominion over his will and his
behaviour and may lead him to crime.
A powerful person does not feel anxious or disturbed,
nor does he experience fear, failure or hesitation.
His spirit is like the cataracts in the river, struck by
waters and waves for years and centuries and remain
fixed in their place, or like the mountains hit by winds,
rains and floods without being affected.
Thus a person who is powerful in spirit says with David
the Prophet : "Though an army should encamp against
me, my heart shall not fear; Though war should rise
against me, in this I will be confident" (Ps. 27:3).
A powerful person is steady and holds out against
hardships and threats. He is powerful despite the external
On the other hand, the weak imagines fears and is
disturbed because of this.
Such fears may probably have no existence! But due to
inner fear, he expects troubles and becomes worried
without reason !!
A powerful person does not set the possibility of failure
or defeat in front of him; for St. Paul the Apostle said,
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power"
(2 Tim. 1:7), "Therefore we do not lose heart" (2 Cor.
4:16). Any fighting, troubles or hardships will not enter
the heart and disturb it.
A powerful person deals with the troubles outside
him, while a weak person allows them into his heart
and nerves and is troubled by them.
This is the power of the spirit which the distinguished are
In an examination, the weak feel perplexed, sweats and
faints when he finds a difficult question and forgets
whatever he has learned !! But a powerful student thinks
of the solution, by analyzing the question, and gains
confidence to solve the problem.
In fact, the real concept of power ought to
concentrate on internal power.
Some people may seem powerful from the outside while
they are completely lost inside. Such a person may say, if
insulted, "God forgive you", but within he is full of rage
and hatred. The commandment of turning the other
cheek (Matt. 5:39) is said by one of the saints to be the
inner feelings, that is interior forbearance, forgiveness and
blaming of oneself.
Interior power is also overcoming one's own self. The
powerful is not he who overcomes others, but rather
who he overcomes himself.
One of the saints said: Man is given the power of anger,
not to use it against others and be angry with them but to
use it against himself if he does wrong. It is well said in
the Psalm, "The royal daughter is all glorious within"
(Ps. 45:13). So, if you overcome your inner self, you can
overcome any external matters, and you will be able to
overcome all enemies. St. John Chrysostom says, 'No one
can do harm to a person unless such a person does harm
Among the Characteristics of power is self-control.
He who controls his tongue is a powerful person as
said by St. James the Apostle (James 3:2). A great
point of weakness, which we pay highly for, is the tongue
A powerful person can control his thoughts so that they
may not overcome him or cause him to stray and thus sin.
A powerful person controls himself at the time of anger
and at the time of fasting with respect to food and drink,
and controls himself with regard to time; he does not
waste his time in enjoyment and entertainment and hence
fails to carry out his spiritual responsibilities.
The power of the nerves:
Another kind of power is the power of the nerves.
A person with weak nerves becomes enraged and
agitated over any small word. He loses his temper and
self-control, his behaviour and words are offensive and he
is an object of criticism by others because his nerves
cannot bear the situation, though he may be powerful in
Nerves in fact pertain to the body, but psychological
factors have an influence, because a person who is subject
to the sin of anger has his nerves quickly inflamed.
A person who is subject to self-love and dignity is
sensitive to any word and thinks it has hurt his dignity
and troubled his nerves because his nerves cannot endure.
Nerves are his point of weakness.
Therefore the apostle says, "We then who are strong
ought to bear with the scruples of the weak" (Rom.
15:1). A person who attacks others is a weak person,
while he who endures is strong, like a steady mountain
that is not aroused by the offenses of others. Such a
mountain remains fixed, not shaken regardless of the
But a person who rages and tries to offend others is
vanquished by himself not by others. A simple word
might trouble him, make him lose his temper and destroy
While the powerful has strong nerves and strong
So, he who endures is powerful, and he who hurts
others is weak.
Examine yourself to find out your weaknesses and do
your best to overcome them.
The powerful is not the person who overcomes others,
but he who can overcome himself. Many think
themselves triumphant and powerful while they are weak
and defeated within.
The powerful does not only bear the offenses but also
bears occurrences and problems.
He bears the hardships which may worry others, and
endures illnesses, afflictions and other hardships.
The Lord Christ was powerful in His forbearance, in
bearing defiance while on the cross when they said to
Him, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the
cross" (Matt. 27:40). So we say to Him in the Divine
Mass, "You have borne the oppression of the wicked".
Aggression is easy. Any person with a weak personality
or weak character can attack others, but the powerful
In marital life, if the couple are weak and cannot bear
each other, they may destroy their home! But if one of
them at least is powerful, he can bear with the other and
so peace prevails between them.
A weak person may break down when hearing certain
news. His nerves, his mind and his life are affected. His
health cannot endure, his blood pressure rises, his heart
fails and he may even collapse. He has no power to bear
the news !! Another point is :
The power of love :
It is written in the Holy Bible, "love is as strong as death
... Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods
drown it" (Song 8:6,7). Love is strong and positive, in
that it gives and sacrifices, even sacrificing oneself for
whom one loves...
Love is also strong with respect to the passive aspect, in
that it endures the faults of others, regardless of what
they may be. So the Apostle says, "Love never fails" (1
But a person who turns his love away from a friend
because of a word or action, may be because his love
initially was weak.
Love is capable of ascending to the cross in order to
save and redeem.
Such strong love tolerated the denial of Peter, the doubt
of Thomas, and the fleeing of the disciples at the time of
arresting the good Master. Strong love extends to the
enemies and offenders and blesses those who curse
The power of the personality:
A powerful personality is distinguished by strong
mentality and thought.
When an person who has intelligence, understanding,
discernment, eloquence, persuasiveness and good
memory, deals with a particular matter, he supports his
point of view clearly and in a way which is capable of
attracting and convincing others.
He does not follow any rumor or belief, but thinks and
examines the matter and holds fast to what is best. With
his intelligence and understanding, he succeeds in any
responsibility entrusted to him. Such a person stands
strong in the face of any problem. He does not allow a
problem to defeat him, but he solves it or bears with it
until it is solved. A person who breaks down before any
problem is not powerful.
A powerful personality does not obey any wrong counsel.
A person with a powerful personality influences others
and is not influenced by them except by the counsel of the
spiritual. A powerful personality does not mean that a
person be stubborn and opinionated. But rather, he is
powerful in good deeds and simple in dealing with others.
Some people have strong influence over others. Those
who are fit for ministry and leadership are unlike those
who have poor minds, even though they may be
physically strong or holding great positions, they cannot
lead others who might be more intelligent and more
opinionated. It may happen that someone faces a
problem and refuses any advice and is not convinced by
any words until a certain person speaks to him and
influences him, so he accepts his advice. The words of
such a person are powerful, effective and influential.
They do not return void.
Such influential power is useful for spiritual
guidance, for the ministry of preaching and for
Such power is useful also with respect to friendship and
social work. It is useful for those who hold management
and leadership positions. It is good for a writer or
journalist as such power would have its attractiveness and
Some persons are powerful in ministry and
They have the power of speech, influencing others and
the ability to attract people to God. Their word does not
return empty (Is. 55:11), but is fruitful. Such as St. Paul
the Apostle, St. Mark, and St. Athanasius the Apostolic
who confronted the Arians and spread the orthodox faith.
Every spiritual priest has spiritual influence which is deep,
like every preacher or successful minister.
Meekness does not contradict power. The Lord Christ
was powerful and meek at the same time. He never
quarreled or cried out (Matt. 12:19), but at the same time
He was persuasive and had a strong personality that
convinced His adversaries in every discourse.
The Will power:
One of the aspects of power in a person is their will
power or resolution. When such a person wills anything,
he can carry it out. When he takes an exercise for
example, he begins and is capable of going on and
completing it. On the other hand a weak person may
have the will but not the capability. He may begin but
does not continue.
Among the aspects of will power is self-control.
A powerful person can control himself whether at the
time of anger or against the wish to revenge. He can also
control himself against any lust or any sin fighting him. A
powerful person can restrain his tongue, his senses and
his thoughts. Suppose such a powerful person has
diabetes, he will be able to restrain himself from
Here I want to say: If a person cannot restrain himself
from food in cases of disease or fasting, how would he be
able to control himself against any lust or any sin ?
Some persons are weak before certain allurements.
These allurements might be position, money or lust.
Before such things he cannot endure, he is overcome by
his weakness or his lust and falls or deserts his faith!
Others might become weak before vain glory, or before
words of praise and extolling. Martyrs and confessors,
on the other hand, were very powerful before all
The power of prayers and faith:
Another kind of power is the power of prayers.
A prayer supported by the power of faith, zeal, humility
and spirituality can ascend to heaven and find response.
People feel the power of a person who have such a way
with prayer and resort to him to find solutions to their
problems from God through him.
The prayer of the Apostles was so powerful that it was
said, "And when they had prayed, the place where they
were assembled together was shaken; and they were
allied with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31). This is the
powerful prayer that ascends to heaven and is presented
before God's throne and receives what it asks for.
Do you have such prayer which others may seek? You
can read about it in the lives of saints.
A powerful prayer is spirited and full of faith.
Faith gives power to prayers, and the power of prayer
with the power of faith work together.
With the power of faith St. Peter walked on the water,
but when his faith was shaken he began to sink. The
Lord saved him and said, "O you of little faith, why did
you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31).
Powerful faith can work miracles. Suffice what the Holy
Bible says, "All things are possible to him who
believes" (Mark 9:2,3).
Elisha the prophet went with the Shunammite woman
confident that he would be able to raise her son (2 Kin.
Elijah the Prophet also did the same with the widow of
Zarepath of Sidon and he raised her son (1 Kin. 17:22).
Powerful faith believes that the Lord will come even at
the last watch of the night. Lazarus will rise even after
four days of his being buried.
Your faith is unshaken even though God delays in
responding, or the prayers seem not to be heard.
It is faith that doubts not God's love, though tribulations
encompass or continue, and though plowers plow on his
back and make their furrows deep (Ps. 129:3).
The power of faith does not only appear in trusting God's
work, but the power of faith appears also when
An example of this is the powerful faith of St. Athanasius
who rejected the Arian thoughts and suspicions. The
faith within his heart was stronger than their suspicions.
On the other hand, weak faith cannot withstand doubts or
heresies and heterodoxies.
THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM
In this chapter we shall present some concepts pertaining
to certain matters relating to both spiritual and social life.
Beginning with the Concept of Freedom, let us discuss it
with our young people:
God likes everyone to be free:
God created man with a free will and said to him in the
Book of Deuteronomy, "See, I have set before you today
life and good, death and evil ... I call heaven and earth
as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you
life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose
life, that both you and your descendants may live, that
you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His
voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life"
Freedom necessitates accountability and
A person or any being who has no freedom is not
accountable for his doings.
On the other hand, freedom necessitates the
accountability of man for whatever he does whether good
or evil so that he might be rewarded for his good works
and punished for his wrong or evil works. Adam and Eve
were free and when they had had God's Commandment
they could have obeyed or broken it. But they broke the
Commandment and God inflicted punishment on them
Punishment for a wrong doing of a person who has
discretion is double: on earth and in heaven. He may
escape punishment on earth but punishment remains in
the other world not abolished except by repentance (Luke
Likewise the reward for a good deed of a person done by
his free will is a double reward. Even though a person
does not obtain the reward on earth, it is kept for him in
heaven, "your Father who sees in secret will reward you
openly" (Matt. 6 :4,6).
You are not entitled to absolute freedom:
You are free to do whatever you want provided that you
do not impose upon the rights or freedoms of others, nor
break God's commandments or public order laid down for
the safety and peace of others.
For example, you have no right to violate traffic rules
while driving your car and say: I am free to go wherever I
want !! Nor have you any right to raise your voice and
make noise that is disturbing to others and say: I am free
to raise my voice as much as I like !!
You have no right to cheat in exams from other papers
and say : I am free to use whatever papers I like!!
As you ought to use your freedom in a way that does
not harm others or violate the public order, you
should also use your freedom in such a way as not to
cause harm to yourself.
Your own self does not belong to us. It belongs to God
who created it and redeemed it. It belongs also to the
community that cared for you and brought you up and
thus you have obligations towards it.
Therefore killing oneself in suicide is a crime which is
punished by God and rejected by law. The same applies
to whoever causes himself harm through smoking or
drugs. Such a person cannot say: I am free to smoke
whenever I like!! He has no right to destroy himself or
deprive the community of his existence and from
performing his duty towards it.
Restrictions against freedom are for your benefit :
Restrictions are useful in that they hold you back from
doing harm to yourself, to others, or to the community
and from breaking God's commandments.
A river has two banks, they do not restrain its water-
course but preserve it.
If a river has no banks it will flow on both sides and
inundate the land turning it into swamps. I wonder if
rivers object to having two banks and say : Banks restrain
It is the same for you; the banks to you are God's
commandments, the laws and the traditions or perhaps
religion and education. Both are for your benefit; for a
child who refuses education and considers it restricting
his freedom, or the youth who refuses the advice of his
parents, his teachers or his guides, seeing in them a
restraint to his freedom, such a person will be corrupt and
will be led astray from the right path. Can straying be
another name for freedom or a consequence thereof ?
Real freedom is to free yourself of your faults:
One should free oneself of faults, bad habits and bad
feelings of the heart, and free one's mind of deviating
thoughts. One should turn away from being subject to
the devil and his supporters, from the influence of bad
company and corrupt association and from every control
over one's will intended to lead one astray.
Such is the freedom meant by the Holy Bible, "If the Son
makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
He who is freed from sin internally, can use external
freedom in the right way:
For example he who is free from hatred, cruelty, violence
and oppression, can use his freedom properly when
dealing with people. But if a person is offensive or cold-
hearted and wishes to use his freedom in whatever way
he likes, he will hurt others with his cruelty and
Likewise, a person who is not freed from bodily lusts can
abuse his freedom in harming others instead of using his
freedom to preserve his purity and holiness.
A girl, for example, who says: I shall put on whatever
dress I like, and laugh or enjoy myself as I want, is in this
way offending others and may cause others to fall besides
herself. Such a girl is not yet free internally, so she uses
her external freedom in a way that causes harm to herself
and to others.
A student who is not serious in his study all year and
says: I am free to do whatever I want, is in fact doing
harm to himself and is misusing his freedom, and thus
cannot succeed in his life because he is not freed within
from the domination of diversion.
My advice to you is, use your freedom for your own
benefit and for the benefit of others. Free yourself within
first before you practice your external freedom.
Some may restrain themselves to attain real freedom:
Such a person does not give himself whatever he wants
lest he should spoil himself or lose control over himself
and lose the real freedom.
So, such a person proceeds into spiritual training to
control himself, restrain his tongue so that it might not
err, control his nerves so that he may not rage and lose
his friends. He proceeds also with spiritual exercises to
control his thoughts so that they may not wander in
harmful matters, as well as spiritual exercises to control
his body through fasting and vigil and to control it
regarding lusts so that he may not plunge into diversion
and sensual delight and lose his spirituality.
Is it right for anyone to say: I shall behave as I wish,
freely, and not restrain myself and force myself to do
good? And if so, is such a person really free or
dominated by his lusts?
THE CONCEPT OF REST & FATIGUE
Types of rest:
Rest is mentioned in the story of creation, in the
beginning of the Holy Scriptures. It is said, "Then God
blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it
He rested from all His work which God had created and
made" (Gen. 2:3).
The rest meant here is the rest after finishing or
completing work. When a person completes what he is
doing he feels comfort and rest.
The Lord God rested on the seventh day from His work
as the Creator.
He rested on the Sunday of the Resurrection after He had
completed His work of salvation and redeemed people
from sin and death.
Another type of rest is that expected by the world,
that is, the eternal rest.
No fatigue, illness or suffering shall be there during this
rest which lasts forever. All causes of worry shall cease
Some other rest that precedes the eternal rest is that
experienced by people after death. A person after
death rests from the troubles of this world, from the
disturbance and the burden of the body, and from the evil
existing around him, as the Holy Bible says, "that they
may rest from their labors, and their works follow them"
That is why we say a departed person is in repose which
There are other kinds of rest while we are on earth.
There is the physical rest, the rest of the mind, soul,
heart and feelings as well as the rest of one's conscience.
There is also psychological rest as well as spiritual rest.
We shall deal with all this in detail, but let us begin with
The bodily rest:
God Himself willed that the body takes rest. He created
the body and He knows its nature that it needs rest. So
He gave it the seventh day of the week as the day of rest.
He said about the Sabbath, "The Sabbath was made for
man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
And concerning the holy days and feasts of the Lord, He
said, "You shall do no work on it" (Lev. 23:3,7).
So, we should give the body physical rest, for it is not
a sin but rather a divine commandment.
A person should be wise so as not to exhaust his body
beyond its power nor give it more rest than it needs
which leads to laziness or sluggishness.
I remember a professor of medicine in London who said
to me: 'I cannot prevent you from hard work; for your
responsibility requires that, but I prevent you from over
work.' By 'over work' he meant work that is done after a
person becomes exhausted and ought to have stopped.
He said to me also: 'The work you do happily and joyfully
will not injure your heart, whereas the work you do when
feeling annoyed and troubled will exhaust you physically.'
Feeling delighted in work makes one not feel tired.
There is a relation then between psychological or
mental rest and physical rest.
An untroubled spirit can bear the burden of the body, but
if the spirit is troubled, the body will feel tired. To make
the body comfortable, as some scientists say, do not let it
work for a long time without rest. Give your body some
rest, even for a few minutes, amidst long hours of work.
This is the purpose of the break given during work, to
help your body recover and give you rest.
The body suffers also from illness and becomes
unable to endure.
A sick person often needs complete rest. He gets tired if
he talks or listens too much. He gets tired because of any
sound, movement or thinking. For this reason, hospitals
limit visiting hours. Do not think that you give comfort
to the sick by your lengthy visits or endless talk!
Bodily rest is different from laziness.
Laziness means that a person has the ability to work but
does not want to work. Laziness, therefore, has many
consequences such as, the failure to carry out
responsibilities. There is also the physical aspect which
laziness may lead to, such as heaviness or sluggishness
and hence the body loses its natural vitality. It may also
lead to weight gain and apathy.
It is well known that humid weather leads to laziness,
whereas cold weather helps one to be active and move.
Movement also generates heat within a person.
Therefore the retired who spend the rest of their lives at
home or at the club become sluggish, while the retired
who go on working remain physically powerful.
Likewise active, working women differ from those who
sit at home doing nothing but become overweight and
By bodily rest we do not mean absolute rest.
The body might be fast asleep but the heart works
regularly. So too the other systems of the body : the
respiratory system, the brain and the other systems, all of
them work during one's sleep and rest. What causes
trouble to the heart or the brain is exhaustion not work.
Thus rest does not mean refraining from work
completely, it may sometimes mean changing the kind of
work. That is why rest in French is called "recreation",
which means "to create again" as when the mind creates
one thought after another.
Concentrating on one thought exhausts the mind.
So, when one gets tired of concentration, one ought to
move to another thought. The mind is always thinking,
but it gets tired of deep thinking on a certain subject for a
long time and needs to leave it for sometime to return to
it afterwards after having restored its activity.
Sometimes rest is connected with fatigue.
A person may need, for example, some exercises to keep
his body healthy by activating it. Some people may
achieve this by walking or running. Fatigue may be
endured for physical benefit. However, what we mean is
fatigue caused by physical therapy, not exhaustion.
Fatigue between the self and the spirit:
Some sick persons may feel bad when they know their
case is dangerous, but they prepare themselves for their
eternity and thus feel the comfort of the spirit.
Therefore people ought not to deceive a sick person
making him think he is all right and entertain him with
worldly means so that he may feel comfort, because he
would neglect his spiritual life and eternity and may
Another example is to flatter a sinner by saying he is right
to give him peace of mind but in fact you cause him to
perish, because he will not rebuke himself nor repent.
The same goes with respect to flattering those in higher
positions or spoiling children. Here we give an important
If you cannot rebuke a sin, do not justify it.
By justifying the behaviour of sinners, you participate in
Jezebel encouraged Ahab to oppress Naboth the
Jezreelite and take his vineyard, thus making him pleased,
but she damaged him spiritually and deserved the same
Likewise a person who lies to get out of a critical
situation, feels peace of mind but causes harm to his
spirit. Also a person who swindles to attain some
purpose gains the same result.
He who does not examine his conscience and rebukes
himself for his sins feels comfort of mind but leads
himself to perdition. Worse still is the person who tries
to justify himself to feel comfort, for such comfort is false
Among the cases of harmful rest is the case of a
person who gains his own rest at the expense of the
fatigue of others.
Such rest is a kind of selfishness and self-affection and
lack of love for others. A person in this case gives
comfort to himself while his spirit is burdened with faults.
Some persons have no external reason for fatigue but
fatigue comes from within them, from the concerns of the
heart, anxiety, suspicions, fear and pessimism.
Everything that happens to them causes them trouble;
they are the cause of their own fatigue not others.
A person may endure physical fatigue to clear his
conscience or spirit.
Martyrs and confessors, for example, endured many
torments to the body in order to have clear conscience for
being steadfast in faith.
Another example is the torturing endured by St. John the
Baptist when he was put in prison and finally his head
was cut off, because he testified to the truth and
confronted the King saying, "It is not lawful for you to
have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:18).
A similar example is the exile of St. Athanasius the
Apostolic for defending the creed against the Arians.
Likewise, Joseph the righteous man endured prison to
keep his conscience clear and pure. He said, "How then
can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
Pastors also endure such fatigue of the body.
They endure so that people might be in comfort and also
to clear their conscience that they are performing their
This applies to whoever takes the way of sacrifice, giving
and being honest in their work. Such a person may feel
tired physically but feels peace of mind, and comfort in
spirit for performing his duties. He does not seek his
own comfort but that of others.
Also the student who works hard, has a clear conscience
with regard to his career and this makes him happy in
spite of fatigue because he achieved peace of mind.
Likewise all those who struggle in fatigue and hard work
for the purpose of achieving a goal, just as a poet once
said, 'To achieve what great souls want, bodies must
Even in spiritual struggling, a person should labour and
fight a good fight to clear his spiritual conscience and to
make his spirit rest in God. Therefore the Apostle said
rebuking, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed,
striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4).
However, there are some people who tire their bodies
and their spirits at the same time.
So, a spiritual person labours for the sake of
righteousness, while a sinner labors in vain. Such vain
labour resembles that of devils in their temptation of
Fatigue in the field of ministry:
A minister labours to clear his conscience and give
comfort to others.
And as the Apostle says, "each one will receive his own
reward according to his labour" (1 Cor. 3:8). Thus St.
Paul laboured in ministry for edifying the kingdom and
for the salvation of the people.
A minister who does not labour physically for the sake of
his ministry, will not feel comfort spiritually nor cause
comfort to those whom he serves.
THE CONCEPT OF AMBITION
Ambition is the desire for elevation and continuous
Ambition is the case of a person who never feels satisfied
and never stops at a certain level.
Now, is this wrong or right? Is it spiritual or not
spiritual? Normal or abnormal? Should a person go that
way or resist it? These are important questions to which
we shall give answers here with regard to the kind of
ambition and its direction.
Ambition is a natural thing, part of man's nature.
Man is created after God's image and likeness. But God
is unlimited, how then can man be made in God's image
with regard to this attribute in particular while God alone
is the Unlimited? The answer is that:
God created in man the inclination to the unlimited.
Since man cannot be unlimited by himself; for being
unlimited is the attribute of God alone, his desires and
ambitions became inclined to an unlimited level .
Whenever a person attains a certain position, he longs for
a higher and better one. St Paul says to us, "not to think
[of himself] more highly than [he] ought to think, but to
think soberly" (Rom. 12:3). So, as long as man is created
in God's image, ambition will be a natural thing in him.
However, ambition differs from one person to
According to the kind of ambition, it is deemed to be
good or evil. Good ambition is a long way one must
walk. There is a sentence before which, believe me my
friends, I stand astounded and amazed: "till we all
come... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
The path towards perfection is long and its concept is so
deep, we ought not to walk in it slowly or sluggishly but
to follow the words of the experienced saint, "Run in
such a way that you may obtain it" (1 Cor 9:24). He even
applies this to himself saying, "Therefore I run thus"
(1 Cor. 9:26).
I wonder whether this saint continued to run thus even
after he had ascended to the third heaven.
Holy ambition then is spiritual ambition, aiming at a
spiritual objective, and taking a spiritual course.
Yet, there is another kind of ambition; a worldly and
sinful one, what is it?
It is an ambition which concentrates on the self and
has worldly aims through means that might be
Examples of this kind of ambition are wealth, sensual
delight, lust, money, titles, greatness, vain glory and the
The example is the rich fool:
"The land of that rich man yielded plentifully so he said to
himself, "I will pull down my barns and build greater,
and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I
will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up
for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be
merry" (Luke 12:18,19).
Thus he concentrated on material matters and on himself,
he did involve God in his ambitions. So he heard God's
judgment, "You fool! This night your soul will be
required of you, then whose will those things be which
you have provided?" (Luke 12:20).
Example of King Solomon (the wise):
He had ambitions of greatness and luxury, of sensual
pleasure and women. So he said to himself, "I made my
works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself
vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards... I
acquired male and female servants... I also gathered for
myself silver and gold and the special treasures of Kings
and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the
delights of the sons of men... So I became great and
excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem.
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them"
But what did Solomon attain from all these ambitions?
He said, "Then I looked on all the works that my hands
had done and on the labour in which I toiled; and indeed
all was vanity and grasping of the wind. There was no
profit under the sun" (Eccl. 2:11).
Such is the vain worldly ambition; it led Solomon to sin
and be under God's punishment. The divine inspiration
said about this, "his wives turned his heart after other
gods, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God"
(1 Kin. 11:4).
Another example of worldly ambitions is that of those
who built the Tower of Babel.
They sought greatness saying, "Come, let us build
ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens;
let us make a name for ourselves... " (Gen. 11:4).
Therefore God confused their language and scattered
them abroad over the face of all the earth (Gen. 11:7,8).
God disapproved such ambition which was mixed with
love for greatness and arrogance...
But the worst ambition indeed was that of Satan!!
He was an angel, even an archangel and was called by the
Holy Bible "the anointed cherub who covers", and was
perfect in his ways from the day he was created
Yet, in spite of his fall, Satan continued in his evil
He even dared to say to the Lord Christ - glory be to Him
- on the Mount of temptation, "All these things I will give
You if You will fall down and worship me" (Matt.4:8,9).
So, the Lord rebuked him and said, "Away with you,
However he continued with his ambitions, wishing to
compete with God, and to deceive the nations which are
in the four corners of the earth (Rev. 20:8), and cause the
great apostasy preceding the Second Coming
(2 Thess. 2:3,9).
With the same sinful ambition, he made our forefathers
fall in the temptation of eating the fruit of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, saying to them, "you will be
like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5).
Some kinds of ambition are associated with conceit.
Conceit may be preceding or succeeding ambition.
Preceding conceit is the case of the person who thinks of
himself more highly than he ought to think (Rom. 12:3).
Such a person might jump to spiritual levels surpassing
his power and thus descends instead of being steadfast in
such levels. He might also aspire to have responsibilities
beyond his capabilities and thus he fails.
If such a person succeeds in anything, he will become
conceited for other things and seek more and more.
Many political leaders failed due to over ambition for
continuous triumph, such as Hitler and Napoleon.
The lust for glorification often caused trouble to the
It even led them to covetousness and dissatisfaction as
Solomon the Wise said, "All the rivers run into the sea,
yet the sea is not full" (Eccl. 1:7), and also, "The eye is
not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing".
For this reason, many who seek worldly ambition are in
strife, in spite of whatever they gain or achieve.
Difference between the two kinds of ambition :
Sinful ambition: whenever it attains some level, it is
puffed up and becomes arrogant. Whereas spiritual
ambition rejoices in the Lord in humbleness.
Both kinds of ambition can be apparent in religious life.
A person having sinful ambition likes to attain the gifts of
the Spirit to be glorified by people, whereas a person
having spiritual ambition strives to attain the fruits of the
Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23), through which he can enjoy God's
love and hidden virtues. Such a person who struggles in
the spiritual path, does not take pride in what he attains,
but finds spiritual pleasure in his attachment to the Lord.
The more he attains, the more he becomes humble,
knowing that the way of perfection is still far away. He
looks at the lives of the saints and finds that he is no
comparison! Whenever he attains something, he
remembers the words of the Lord, "When you have
done all those things which you are commanded, say,
'We are unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10).
Therefore, many saints who attained very high levels
continued to weep for their sins, because in their spiritual
ambition they saw higher and higher levels they have not
Spiritual people differ from worldly people in regard
to the measures of ambition.
A person who has worldly ambition likes for
example to become more wealthy and to increase his
money day after day and may become greedy. But the
ambition of the spiritual person is in giving out his money
to the poor to have treasure in heaven.
A person who has worldly ambition likes to be
always the first if not the only. He likes the front seats,
whereas a spiritual person finds ambition in acquiring the
virtue of humility and takes the last seat. He puts before
him the words of the Apostle, "...in honour giving
preference to one another" (Rom. 12:10), and thus he
tries to be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35).
Such a person turns into a servant, who loves to serve
others and grows in his service, so all people love him for
A worldly ambitious person competes with people to
take their place.
But a spiritually ambitious person helps others to attain
what he attained. He does not rival people in the course
of life, but with all his heart he wants to attain to God.
Unlike this type, the worldly ambitious person likes to
surpass others or detain someone else to beat him.
When Joshua son of Nun saw two men prophesying, he
wanted to forbid them - seeing that prophesying should
be confined to his master Moses - Moses rebuked him,
saying, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the
Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put
His spirit upon them!" (Num. 11:26-29).
A person who has spiritual ambition, wants to attain the
utmost of spirituality due to his love to God, never thinks
of rivaling or competing with others or even surpassing
them in spirituality.
The ambitious who wants to be superior is
overcomed by the self.
God's grace is ready to help everyone achieve their goals.
Why then is there competing and rivaling in the way of
ambition since there is room for all ?
Or do you want - with this ambition - to win over others
in spirituality? And for what reason? Can you find
through this victory the spirit of love which your ambition
The ambition of a person who does not only want to
be the first but even to be the only one, is
undoubtedly evil ambition.
Such ambitious persons do not like the benefit of others,
and this is evil. Ambition like this has deviated and
turned to self-love or to selfishness.
Spiritual ambition seeks to rise above certain levels
not certain people.
You may rise above certain persons but your spiritual
level remains as it is, besides, the desire of surpassing
others might lead you to fall into the sin of envy and
jealousy which contradicts the spirit of true love. It
makes you watch the person who competes with you and
you may rejoice for his failure to get an opportunity to
surpass him, and thus you lose the purity of heart.
Seek then not to promote yourself in order to conquer
over others, and if you do not come first, see that you do
not envy him who becomes first but rather rejoice for
This is spiritual ambition; to overcome oneself not others.
Let the objective of your seeking perfection be to
please God, not to acquire vain glory.
It is a divine commandment that you be perfect
(Matt. 5:48), and if you attain this, you ought to rejoice
that you will have pleased God by carrying out His
commandment. Let this rejoicing be without pride and
without comparing yourself to others.
A spiritually ambitious person develops continually.
That is because development is a practical quality for
ambition. However in development, a spiritually
ambitious person rejoices to see others develop as well.
Spiritual ambition seeks spiritual growth in prayers,
contemplations, knowing God, love of God, serving Him
and love of others; all of which are not fields for
In prayer, a spiritually ambitious person likes to develop
and grow whether with regard to the time he spends with
God or to the fervency, depth, contemplation, love and
faith in his prayers. The same can be said with respect to
other virtues; he advances steadily.
Unlike this is the person who has no ambition, who
might stop at a certain position and achieve no
progress, and this might perhaps lead him to become
In practical life, a person ought to be ambitious.
He should put before him as a goal to succeed in
whatever he does as it was said about Joseph the
Righteous that he was a successful man, the Lord was
with him and made all he did to prosper in his hand.
Someone may ask at this point: Does ambition contradict
Contentment concerns material matters, while
ambition concerns spiritual matters.
Both go together and strengthen each other. Some may
ask how can ambition attain perfection while perfection is
an attribute of God alone. I reply that what is required
from a person is relative, not absolute, perfection. If you
cannot attain perfection, you should at least grow so that
God might see you progressing every day.
Be like the tree which grows every day; for the righteous
shall flourish like a palm tree (Ps. 92:12). Do not let your
ambition in your work hinder your ambition in your
THE CONCEPT OF SIN
Many say 'I have sinned' Very simply!
They do not recognize the significance of the words nor
We also repeat the same words in the Lord's Prayer,
saying, "Forgive us our sins", and in Psalm 51:4, "Against
You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your
We say the same in the Trisagion, "Forgive us our sins,
our iniquities and our trespasses". We say these words
simply without recognizing their serious significance! So,
let us know what is sin?
Sin is against God:
The seriousness of sin lies in its being against God.
Therefore David said to the Lord in the Psalm of
repentance, "Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight".(Ps 51:4). And about
sinners David said they, "have not set You before them",
that is: they did not think that You see and hear and
watch them. A sinner is like one losing consciousness not
knowing what he is doing. He needs someone to awaken
him, to make him come to his senses and show him what
he is doing.
Sin signifies that you do not feel God's presence.
If you do feel God's presence, you would not commit sin
in His eyes without being ashamed! Perhaps this was
what occupied the mind of Joseph the Righteous when he
said, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin
So, when you sin, you sin against God before anything
else, you resist Him, disobey Him and defy Him. You
grieve His Holy Spirit and defile His dwelling in your
Do you feel all this when you sin or when you confess
your sins? Or you just mention your sin simply without
feeling its seriousness and offensiveness. It is like a sick
person who when asked about his illness replies, 'Oh it is
nothing really!' when it may in fact be cancer or AIDS !!
Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). It is transgression and
breaking God's commandments, it is lack of concern, and
a breach of God's rights, dignity and fatherhood. Sin has
thus two aspects: with regard to God, and with regard to
With regard to God, sin is revolt against Him.
It is a revolt and disobedience against God. Imagine then
that dust and ashes rebel and revolt against God the
Creator of heaven and earth!
It is a kind of arrogance that dust revolts against God.
Before breaking the Commandment, arrogance would
have broken the heart within.
Sin, thus, is arrogance and haughtiness. Right then
are the words said in the book of Proverbs, "Pride goes
before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall"
Through such pride and arrogance man falls. A humble
person who lays himself down to the dust would not fall,
but the haughty rises up then falls.
Sin is also lack of love to God.
In this regard, St. John the Apostle says, "If anyone loves
the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John
Two ways then are before a person : either the love of the
world or the love of God. And clearly a sinner prefers
the love of the world to the love of God; or rather he
loves himself more than he loves God (and of course he
loves himself in a way that leads it to perdition).
On the other hand sin is lack of love to God, since a
sinner disobeys God and revolts against Him.
Sin is enmity with God or disagreement with Him.
This is evident in the words of St. James the Apostle,
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is
enmity with God" (James 4:4).
If the world "enmity" is hard, let us use at least the word
"disagreement" as sinners need actually a reconciliation.
That is why St. Paul the Apostle said that God "has given
us the ministry of reconciliation", so he said, "we are
ambassadors for Christ... we implore you... be
reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19,20).
If you are a sinner, surely you need to be reconciled to
Being in disagreement, sin is separation from God.
For, "what communion has light with darkness?"
(2 Cor.6:14). God is light and sinners live in the outer
darkness as they love darkness more than light because
their deeds are evil, "For everyone practicing evil hates
the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds
should be exposed" (John 3:19,20).
When the lost son loved sin, he left his father's house and
journeyed to a far country (Luke 15:13), Likewise a
sinner is separated from God by his heart, his mind and
his deeds. Of such separation the Lord says, "... but their
heart is far from Me" (Mark 7:6).
Staying in such separation means that the sinner is not
concerned or keen to associate with God!! So he stops
communing with God and puts an end to his relation with
Him and his communion with the Holy Spirit as long as
he lives in sin.
By sin we grieve God's Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
This is the case of sin from the beginning as we see in the
story of the great flood; for the Holy Bible says, "the
Lord was sorry... and He was grieved in His heart"
God is grieved when He sees the creation He made in His
image and likeness being destroyed and defiled before His
When we sin, we do not only grieve God's Spirit, but we
also resist and disobey Him as St. Stephen the Deacon
said to the Jews on his martyrdom, "You always resist the
Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51).
A sinner may go to the extent that God's Spirit
departs from him.
The Holy Bible said about King Saul, "But the Spirit of
the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit
from the Lord troubled him" (1 Sam. 16:14). What a
hard thing that God's Spirit departs a person!!.
If this is hard for you and you exclaim, 'How can it be
that God's Spirit departs from me?', I shall facilitate the
meaning for you. I tell you that it is not God's Spirit that
departs from you but it is you who departs from God's
Spirit. But in both cases there is departing and separation
between you and God's Spirit.
St. Paul the Apostle speaks hard words about sin
especially about adultery.
He says, "Do you not know that your bodies are members
of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and
make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!"
(1 Cor. 6:15).
This means that a person, by sin, defiles God's temple.
So the Apostle says, "Do you not know that you are the
temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy
him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you
are" (1 Cor. 3:16,17).
Therefore, when you say 'I have sinned' think about
the words so that you may know what they entail.
Do you realize that they entail the sins we have
mentioned before, and the details thereof ? Besides, sin
signifies something else :
Sin is a contempt of sonship to God
If you are indeed God's child, created in His image and
likeness you will never sin as St. John the Apostle said,
"Whoever has been born of God does not sin... and he
cannot sin", "and the wicked one does not touch him"
(1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18). St. John said also about the
Lord, "If you know that He is righteous, you know that
everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him"
(1 John 2:29).
Is a sinner aware, when he is committing sin, that he is
God's child and God's image? Or is he at that time
surrendering this privilege with its attributes? The
Apostle says about this, "In this the children of God and
the children of the devil are manifest" (1 John 3:10).
Therefore St. Paul rebuked sinners describing them as,
"illegitimate and not sons" (Heb. 12:8).
Sin is also unfaithfulness to God.
A sinner, by his sinning, is siding with God's enemies, that
is, Satan and his hosts, against God and even becoming
one of them as the Lord said, rebuking the Jews, "If you
were Abraham's children, you would do the works of
Abraham... you are of your father the devil, and the
desires of your father you want to do" (John 8:39,44).
St. John the Baptist also reprimanded them, saying,
"Brood of vipers!" (Matt. 3:7). He meant that they were
the children of the devil.
Sin is likewise crucifixion of the Lord Christ.
St. Paul the Apostle says in this regard, "For it is
impossible for those who were once enlightened, and
have tasted the heavenly gift... if they fall away to renew
them again to repentance, since they crucify again for
themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open
shame" (Heb. 6:4-6).
Or at least, since no sin shall be forgiven unless carried by
Christ on the Cross, then, by your sins you are adding a
load on Christ's cross and adding bitter drops into the cup
By your sins you put abominations on Christ's Cross.
He carried the sins of all the world to redeem us by His
blood (1 John 2:2), among which are the sins you have
committed and still commit.
Hear then in fear what St. Paul the Apostle says, "Anyone
who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the
testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse
punishment, do you suppose, will be thought worthy who
has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the
blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a
common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?"
Consider these words to recognize how offensive sin
Trampled the Son of God underfoot... Counted the blood
of the covenant... Insulted the Spirit of grace... Crucify
again the Son of God and put Him to open shame. It is
indeed unfaithfulness to God and unfaithfulness to the
grace we acquired in baptism, for the Apostle says, "For
as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on
Christ" (Gal. 3:27).
Or do you think that it was Judas alone who betrayed
Christ? No, everyone who sins betrays Christ, betrays his
own baptism and holy confirmation, and betrays the holy
blood which cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Sin with regard to man:
Sin with regard to man sin is losing the divine
We are created in God's image and likeness, and even
though we lost that image when our forefathers fell, we
restored it by the grace of the New Testament. However,
we lose it again every time we sin because a sinner cannot
be in God's image, for God is holy.
Sin is also depriving oneself of God...
You are a branch in the vine as long as you abide in it and
as long as the juice of the vine runs in you and you live
and give fruit, God prunes you to give more fruit. But
the branch which is detached from the vine because of
living in sin, will be cast out, and thrown into the fire
When committing sin, you are subjected to the fearful
words said by the Lord to those who practice
lawlessness, "I never knew you; depart from Me"
It is amazing that these words referred to people who had
said to Him, "Lord, have we not prophesied in Your
name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many
wonders in Your name?"
What a painful thing that the Lord declares that He
does not know us!!
The same words were said by the Lord to the foolish
virgins, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you"
(Matt. 25:12). He even shut the door and left them
outside, while the wise virgins attended the wedding.
Sin is corruption of the human nature...
You can imagine the condition of Adam and Eve before
the fall. They were in wonderful innocence, simplicity
and purity. But sin changed their heart and sight, "the
woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was
pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable" (Gen. 3:6).
The tree always existed in the garden, and Eve never
looked at it so desirably, yet sin changed the way she
perceived the tree; and planted lust in her heart and
corrupted her innocent nature.
Man entered into the dualism of good and evil and
knowing what is permissible and what is forbidden. He
lost his simplicity, knew the lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Flesh began
to lust against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh
and both contradict one another (Gal. 5:1-7).
Believe me, even the features of the face change by
The look, the smile, the tone of the voice and the whole
form of the person change. That is why the Apostle
advises us, saying, "be transformed by the renewing of
your mind" (Rom. 12:2).
If you meet one of your friends whom you have not seen
for a long time, and this friend has been living in sin, you
might say to yourself upon seeing him, "This is not the
person I knew before. Everything about him has
changed, even his features!"
Sin is defeat, failure and weakness...
This is a fact even though a sinner thinks that he has
attained many things from the world, in reality, he has
failed. King Saul was not powerful when he chased
David in the wilderness but rather was defeated by
himself and his jealousy. Finally he felt his defeat and
lifted up his voice and wept, saying to David, "You are
more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with
good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil"
(1 Sam. 24:16,17).
A sinner is a weak person who fails to resist sin and is
conquered by evil. He is defeated by his lust for sin. He
has become unworthy of God's promises to those who
conquer as mentioned in the Lord's messages to the seven
churches (Rev. 2:3).
Such a person is defeated, not only by sin that fights from
the outside, but more so by the sin that abides within his
Lastly, sin is death...
I cannot find a more wonderful description than that
mentioned by the Lord to the angel of the church in
Sardis, "you have a name that you are alive, but you are
dead" (Rev. 1:3). The Lord said the same about the lost
son who repented, "For this my son was dead and is
alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:24).
THE CONCEPT OF LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
Love is due to God in the first place:
If we want to understand love according to its true basis,
biblically, we should put before us the following fact:
Love is addressed, before anything else, to God -
blessed be His name.
This reflects God's words in Deuteronomy, "You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5).
Since this love is with all the heart, where can other kinds
of love be? What can we give since all the heart is for
God? The only solution is:
Our love for everyone and for everything should be
through or within the scope of our love for God.
All the heart is given to God and within this love of God,
we love everyone. Therefore the Lord said, "...and the
second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as
yourself" (Matt. 22:39).
But why did He say "like it"? Because it is within the
love of God, part of it and not separated from it.
Any love outside the scope of God's love, is wrong.
What then if such love exceeds our love for God? The
Lord says in this regard, "He who loves father or mother
more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves
son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me"
The love that exceeds the love of God is for some person
or thing other than God Himself. We can say about this :
It is a false love which contradicts God's love and is
stronger in the heart than the love for God.
The heart becomes disowned by God, and this false love
intrudes God's domain.
Kinds of love:
There is natural love such as love between children and
parents. Therefore God likened His love for us to the
love of the father for his children.
There is also acquired love such as the love for friends,
relatives and colleagues or the love between two engaged
persons, or between the husband and wife.
Love might develop gradually.
It may begin as an acquaintance, then develop into
friendship. Acquaintance is a relation between two or
more persons who may work together or have similar
interests, and this may develop into a friendship.
There might be a kind of admiration in some
However, admiration is something different from love.
You may admire an athlete but this does not mean that
you love him. When you admire a writer, you admire his
thoughts without having any relation with him. There
may also arise a mental relation between you and him, but
all this is not love. Even though such relations develop
into a kind of love, it will be love for his thoughts or style
not for his person.
Love is an encounter between two hearts, or a union
between two hearts with the same feelings and emotions.
In order that such love be holy, the feeling sought should
be within God's love, not contradicting or exceeding it.
One of the problems is the case of one sided love.
This means that something is wrong or there is no
agreement; for love is supposed to bring forth love.
Love should be reasonable, wise and spiritual; for there
are different kinds of love that may cause harm. True
love should be chaste; for there is a difference between
love and lust.
I remember that I was once asked to distinguished
between them, and I said: 'Love always wants to give,
whereas lust always wants to take.'
Lust, wishing always to take, is characterized by
selfishness. It may ruin the other party though it pretends
to love. It may confine the other party to it and shut him
off from others. It may turn sometimes to a destroying
jealousy! In fact, it is not true love; for true love is
characterized with giving and sacrifice, even self sacrifice.
Look, then, at yourself in your relation with the other sex
and see whether it is a relation of love or lust!
When a young man goes after a girl and destroys her
reputation or robs her chastity, what can we call it:
love or lust? If he really loves her he would protect her,
feel concerned about her reputation as he does for his
sister. He would protect her chastity and respect her
feelings. He would not let her be infatuated with him and
attached to him, then desert her, leaving her confused.
Can we call this love?
Some people may call it mere amusement in the life of
But what is the cost of such amusement from the spiritual
and social aspects? Such amusement occupies the mind
and may destroy one's career or hinder the young person's
success in study. There is no love whatsoever involved
here. What kind of amusement can this be in which
chastity and reputation are lost and even the spirituality
of both are lost?
True love should be accompanied with purity of
Love between two young people should not abolish
their love for God.
The Lord said, "He who loves father or mother... son or
daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me"
So, is it right for a young man to love a young woman
more than God, or for a young woman to love a young
man more than God? Is it right that such love involves
feelings contradicting with the purity of heart ?
A person who loves you truly never makes you lose
Who loves you truly does not rob for himself your love
for God nor decreases its value nor shakes the love of
God in your heart. He cannot leave you in conflict
between two kinds of love: a spiritual love and the love
of the flesh, or love for God and love for a human being.
Love is not self enjoyment at the expense of another
It is rather a self-denial and a self sacrifice as Jonathan
did for the sake of his friend David; exposing himself to
the anger of his father by defending David.
The best example of love is the sacrifice on the cross for
our sake as the Lord said, "For God so loved the world
that He gave His Only Begotten Son... " (John 3:16).
What then can we say about love which leads to
The important thing is: How can we be sure that it leads
to marriage? What are the limitations of such love or
such relation which is called love leading to marriage? Is
it love between two engaged persons as a condition? Or
is it love without any legal relation? What is its end?
And what can protect it from deviation?
True love is everlasting love.
It continues and never fails (1Cor. 13:8), if the couple
love each other strongly and wish that such love
continues between them throughout their life on earth.
This love will also continue with them in eternity. This
cannot be realized unless their love is chaste so that they
may enter Paradise together, then enter together into the
Kingdom in eternity. But if one of them perishes on the
way, they will not be together in the kingdom of heaven.
They should support each other on the spiritual way.
Suppose they lived together in sin, then one of them
repented and the other did not. They will be separated
after death; one will go to Paradise, and the other to
Hades. They will never meet in the eternal life and thus
their love is not everlasting. Perpetual love is spiritual.
Love has various kinds of domains.
There is love among family members - parents and
children, brothers and sisters, and husband and wife. All
these kinds of love and relationships are approved by the
Holy Bible and by nature.
There is the love of friends such as the love between
David and Jonathan of which David said after the death
of Jonathan, "I am distressed for you my brother
Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me, your love
to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women"
(2 Sam. 1:26).
It was pure love between two spirits.
On the other hand, love which has a physical relation
such as that between husband and wife, is not permitted
by the Holy Bible outside wedlock.
At this point we move to friendship: what is its
concept? And what are its limits?
Friendship is a feeling of amiability which might be
between one man and another, one woman and another,
or among the members of one family or between two
families with their members whether men or women. It
might be between two sexes within the scope of spiritual
love without any physical feeling. A friend should be true
in friendship. He should be righteous so as to lead his
friend to goodness.
A friend who defends you when you do wrong and
encourages you to continue is not a true friend.
Whoever does this is not your true friend. His love to
you is harmful. So you should choose your friends by
those who participate with you in righteousness and who
do not flatter you at the expense of truth nor encourage
you to do wrong.
There are different kinds of wrong love:
Love may be wrong in itself or in its means, its course or
An example of wrong means is the love Rebecca had
for her son Jacob.
She wanted Jacob to have the blessing, but she resorted
to wrong means, which was to deceive his father. Thus
she exposed him to God's punishment, which was
followed by the deceit of Laban when he gave Leah to
marry instead of Rachel and when he changed his wages.
Jacob was also deceived by his own sons who pretended
that a wild beast devoured his son Joseph and he lived all
his life in turmoil.
Rebecca was also wrong in that her love was not
complete. She did not love Esau as she loved Jacob.
Jacob also, when he grew old, did not love all his children
in the same degree. He loved Joseph more than the
others and this made them jealous and sought to injure
The Lord wants us to love all people, even enemies and
those who offend us. It is also written, "If your enemy
hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink"
Whoever loves at the expense of others, has no love in
An example of this is Jezebel who loved her husband
King Ahab and helped him to take the vineyard of
Naboth. She devised a plan to accuse Naboth by false
witnesses and put him to death. Thus her love for her
husband was wrong love that led him to oppress and kill
and to deserve the Lord's revenge (1 Kin. 21)
Love might be wrong with regard to its outcome.
An example is that of the women who admired David's
victory over Goliath and sang to him saying "Saul has
slain his thousands, and David his ten
thousands."(1Sam. 18:7). Thus they implanted jealousy
in Saul's heart that led him to maltreat David bitterly and
seek to kill him.
Another example is of the people who kept shouting to
Herod, "The voice of a god not of a man."
(Acts 12:22). So, an angel of the Lord struck him, and
he was eaten by worms and died because he did not give
glory to God.
Another kind of wrong love is encouraging sinners.
An example of this is those who followed heretics
throughout history and encouraged them creating a
popularity to support their theological mistakes. This
made them adhere to their heresies and heterodoxies and
thus the church ex-communicated them. They lost their
eternity, whereas if those followers had not encouraged
them, they would have forsaken their heresies for not
Some of those followers even continued to spread the
views of the hereties after their death.
It is not love to encourage a person to continue in sin.
Nor is it love to defend him or support him financially.
But true love leads to repentance through revealing one's
mistake, reprimanding him for it and calling him to stop
Love which encourages one to sin is not love, as stated
by the Holy Bible , "He who justifies the wicked, and he
who condemns the just, both of them alike are an
abomination to the Lord" (Prov. 17:15).
A person who justifies the wicked out of love, loses
God's love and becomes an abomination to Him. Even
this love for the wicked leads him to perish eternally as he
is considered taking part in sin and the responsibility for
the sinful act, its results and punishment.
When such a person perishes, he who encouraged him
will be among the reasons that led to his perdition and at
the same time he will be deemed resisting Truth, who is
The mother who conceals the mistakes of her son, so
that his father may not know and punish him, does
not truly love her son but rather does him harm. She
corrupts him and destroys his character and his relation
Also the mother who spoils her son is in a way destroying
him. So the saying goes, 'Who makes you weep is
weeping for you, and who makes you laugh is laughing at
When you love a person, do not defend him in his
wrong doing, but save him.
You can lead him to repentance, thus saving him and
saving yourself of being condemned with him.
True love is to deliver him of his faults, or to justify his
faults before others.
Reprimanding is therefore a kind of love.
Disciplining from those who have authority is an evidence
of love as it is said about God- blessed be His name -
"For whom the Lord loves He corrects" (Prov. 3:12),
Some people - regretfully - think that punishment is
against love!! No, this is wrong; for punishment keeps
you from continuing in sin. If a sinner does not benefit
from it, the others will benefit as St. Paul the Apostle said
to his disciple St. Timothy, "Those who are sinning
rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear"
(1 Tim. 5:20).
Some people may think that love calls them to
support others even in their wrong doings.
An example of this is the student who assists his
colleague to cheat in the exams out of love for him! Or
the father priest who helps one to conclude an illegal
marriage claiming that he is helping a person to marry the
one he loves; or the doctor who helps a girl who sinned
to abort the child to avoid embarrassment.
Another example of wrong love is the husband who
restrains his wife at home.
Restraining is not correct, but a husband should deepen
his love for his wife so that she might be attached to him.
The wife's love for God prevents her from deceiving her
husband. Restraining and restricting the wife at home is a
kind of selfishness which deprives her from enjoying her
life without any fault on her part.
Over zealous love is also a wrong type of love.
An example of this is the love of Peter the Apostle for the
Lord Christ. This love made him draw his sword and
strike the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear.
The Lord reprimanded him for that action (John
Another example of wrong love is the mother who is over
protective of her children and their health, even
preventing them from fasting. She may even ask his
father confessor to prevent him.
Unlike this is the saintly mother who, in the days of
martyrdom, witnessed her children being martyred before
her eyes, even on her lap, and yet encouraged them in
When we speak about love, we mean true love which
results in one's salvation and success on the spiritual way.
True love is practical love.
St. John the Apostle said in this regard, "Let us not love
in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth"
(1 John 3:18).
The parents' love for a child is practical love, for they
care for their nourishment, health, cleanliness and
education. They are also concerned with their spiritual
life; they instruct him in religion and encourage him in
The Song of Songs says concerning love, "Set me a seal
upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm" (Song 8:6).
The expression "a seal upon your heart" means your
emotions and inner feelings, whereas the expression
"a seal upon your arm" means giving hand in work.
St. Peter the Apostle was not a seal upon the heart when
he said, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not
be... if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!."
(Mark 14:29,30). And when he denied, he was not a seal
upon the arm.
So, a seal upon the heart refers to faith, and a seal upon
the arm refers to works. Love for God requires both
matters together, and love for people also requires
feelings and work; for such is practical love.
With regard to pastors, the Holy Bible says, "The good
shepherd gives His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
Giving oneself is practical love.
God - the Good Shepherd - as mentioned in the Holy
Bible, "demonstrates His own love toward us, in that
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.
It was practical love demonstrated in the Incarnation,
Crucifixion and redemption.
Love is an emotion expressing itself in action
The Lord says, "My son, give Me your heart"
(Prov.23:26). Does this mean that God wants mere
emotions? No, for He says immediately after, "And let
your eyes observe My ways." Here love is required
together with action. Thus the Lord says, "If anyone
loves Me, he will keep My word" (John 14:23), and also,
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My
love" (John 15:10).
Love for God is not theoretical love, nor mere
Your love for God is demonstrated in your obedience to
Him and in keeping His commandments. It is revealed
also in spreading His kingdom on earth, in serving Him
and in serving His church and His children.
But to say that you love God while you are doing
nothing, is mere theoretical love which is not acceptable.
Here I remember with great admiration, those who
preached God's word in countries where people are
This is the sacrificing love; the love of a person who gives
people God's word to feed on, even if some of them feed
The relationship with God:
When we speak about love, we do not only speak about
dealings among people but rather more about the
relationship with God. When the Lord Christ was talking
with the Father about His relationship with His disciples
in the famous Chapter of John chapter 17, He said, "I
have given to them the words which You have given Me"
(John 17:8), "And I have declared to them Your name
and will declare it, that the love with which You loved
Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).
It is a relationship involving recognition and love as
well as sacrifice.
We find an example of this in the words of St. Paul the
Apostle about his ministry, "in journey often, in perils of
waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own
countrymen... in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the
sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and
toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in
fastings often, in cold and nakedness..."
(2 Cor. 11:26,27).
You would ask St. Paul: Is this ministry? And I can
imagine him replying: It is rather love.
As for you, is your love for God mere words or
Does your love involve sacrifice and giving and the
spreading of God's word?
Does your love involve control over your tongue,
thoughts and lusts?
Does love appear in your prayers, ministry and
Do you say in your prayer with the Psalmist : "I will lift
up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as
with marrow and fatness" (Ps. 63:4).
Is your ministry a kind of love as that of the Lord Christ
of whom it was said, "having loved His own who were in
the world, He loved them to the end" (John 13:1).
True love is also without hypocrisy (Rom. 12:9).
This should be the kind of love whether towards God or
Let not our hearts be different from our tongue and our
tongue from our emotions.
THE CONCEPT OF OFFENSE
What is an offense :
The Lord Christ - glory be to Him - said about offenses,
"Woe to the world because of offenses... Woe that man
by whom the offense comes!" (Matt. 18:7), "But whoever
causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it
would be better for him if millstone were hung around
his neck, and he drowned in the depth of the sea" .
If offense is so serious in the punishment it entails, what
is an offense?
An offense causes a person to fall.
An offense may be intentional when it causes another to
fall. The punishment in this case is more serious than that
in the case of unintentional offense.
The first offense in man's history was introduced
through the devil.
He caused our first parents to fall; for they were simple,
knowing no evil and he intended on making them fall
through deceit and temptation. By this offense, death
entered into the world and the devil caused the
corruption of human nature.
Offense comes through various means: when a person
causes offense to another through making him familiar
with sin, facilitating sin to him, letting him taste sin or
introducing it under a false concept, such as giving it the
name of a virtue or telling him about the benefits and
advantages of sin!!
Knowledge of sin:
This means that a person is aware of the things which
harm him spiritually.
Thus knowledge which defiles his thoughts is
introduced into his mind.
This knowledge may arouse lusts within and make him
fall into sin. Perhaps this was in the mind of Solomon the
Wise when he said, "For in much wisdom is much grief,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow"
Eve fell through the knowledge that came to her which
was false; for the devil lied when he said to her, "your
eyes will be opened, and you will be like God... " (Gen.
3:5). However these words changed Eve's sight, thought
and emotion: "So when the woman saw that the tree was
good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree
desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and
ate..." (Gen. 3:6).
So a person who encourages a friend with harmful
information, is offending him.
Such is the case, for example, of a person who gives his
friend information falsely about another person,
condemning him, or introduces some ideas that may
corrupt him morally, or suspicions which may shake his
faith. The friend after such meeting will say, 'Oh I wish I
had not met him or heard what he had to say!'
Another example is the evil environment and the
thoughts introduced in it.
About this the Apostle said, "Evil company corrupts
good habits" (1 Cor. 15:33).
Thus, with the offense on one side and the bad example
on the other side, a person becomes aware of deceit.
For example, the pupil who learns to miss school or to
cheat in exams, or children and youth who become
involved in gangs for the purpose of learning how to pick
pockets, or some youth who gather together and teach a
new friend drug addiction or gambling, all these are
stumbling blocks, and the Psalmist said concerning this :
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the
ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the
seat of the scornful" (Ps. 1:1).
A stumbling block also is the person who introduces
to you to a wrong thought without refuting it.
He may introduce to you all evidences of the wrong
thought and stop at this point without commenting on it
or giving refutations destroying that thought. And when
he is attacked for what he said, he replies. 'I did not say
that these are my views, but I just mentioned them for
Such people may have followers, disciples and lovers
who repeat and teach the same ideas and they become
Evading such a person is chastity not contention
Evading them is avoidance of causes of offenses and
avoidance of knowledge of offense; for a person who
causes offense leads his friend to lose the simplicity and
innocence he had before. It seems as if he is saying to his
friend the same words which the devil said to Eve, "your
eyes will be opened". The eyes become open to know
It is another kind of offense; for it is probable that a
person knows sin but does not practice it as long as the
door is closed before him. So, whoever facilitates the
matter to him is offending him, as for example when a
person makes another familiar with places and means of
sin leading him to those places, removing fear from his
heart and removing obstacles from his way.
An example is the behaviour of Jezebel by which she
facilitated King Ahab to take possession of the vineyard
of Naboth the Jesreelite (1 Kin. 21), and also the purpose
of Ahithophel's counsel to Absalom to enable him strike
his father David (2 Sam. 17).
All this is more serious and dangerous than mere
knowledge of sin; for remedy of sin is much easier than
remedy of the taste of sin.
It is the first practical step towards committing sin, such
as when a person offers a cigarette to someone to smoke,
or a rose containing heroin to smell; or lets him win in
gambling to continue playing; or gives him a glass of
wine to taste; or opens for him the door to practice the
sins of youth.
Giving another name to sin:
It is an offense to give sin the name of a virtue, or
another acceptable name.
For example, when a person spreads some heresy, he says
that it is the right concept of religion. The person who
teaches his friend gambling calls it a kind of amusement
or entertainment. The person who causes another to
commit adultery, says that this is a cure for repression
and its harmful effects. The person who assists someone
to evade taxes, says that this is mere avoidance of the
exaggeration and oppression of the tax-assessing
commissions... etc. The devil - in the offense - does not
Kinds of offenses:
Not all offenses are in the field of youth sins as some
There are offenses in the field of religion as in the case of
heretics and those who spread suspicions concerning
religion or spread atheism or deny the resurrection and
miracles of Christ.
There are also offenses in the field of philosophy and
ideology where principles and values are shaken. This is
the case of the heretics who introduce new ideas to
destroy the established ideas under the name of science
The Arians were more dangerous than Arius himself and
they offended Athanasius more. So, it is well said by St.
James the Apostle, "My brethren, let not many of you
become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a
stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
But, what is the reason? "For we all stumble in many
things". It is the stumbling block of teaching, when one
stumbles by himself, seeing himself right, wise in his own
eyes (Prov. 3:7).
Moreover he makes others stumble through spreading his
Do not, then, accept every new thought that destroys
what you have previously received.
Such thoughts may be a stumbling block for you, for
some would try to present something new by abolishing
old traditions to prove themselves more knowledgeable .
Some of those work in Biblical criticism. They are
clergymen and professors of Theology in foreign
universities. However they are stumbling blocks and
according to the words of the Apostle "they shall receive
a stricter judgment," being condemned for their errors
and for spreading such errors.
This is an offense; for others fall in errors due to imitating
those examples, who - whether being leaders or
colleagues - do not intend to make others fall, but they
become a cause. Others may learn from their routine,
coming late to work, justifying errors, mistreating the
public and delaying their work, low production, writing
false or forged reports ... etc.
A person absorbs from society many things. He may
absorb habits and offenses.
In this regard, we see parents and the influence on their
children; for children see their fathers and mothers
examples to be followed.
A stumbling block for the simple who have no
discernment are those who are more experienced, more
knowledgeable or higher in rank; for the simple stumble
not because they criticize them but they imitate them.
Employees of low rank, when being promoted, may
follow the example of his precedent and thus stumble.
Culture and the Mass Media:
All audio visual media might be a stumbling block, if the
programs presented are offensive to the audience; for
they will have their impact on the personality, whether on
thinking or behaviour or on the interior feelings and
Likewise, all sources of thought, whether books,
magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, leaflets etc... These
might be a stumbling block if they have a bad effect on
people's thoughts, feelings and behaviour and lead them
onto a path which is harmful to them and to the
Someone once said: 'Tell me what you read, and I'll
tell you who you are.'
To these words I add; the matter is not confined only to
what you read, but it extends also to what you see and
what you hear. Cassettes, television and video may have
a dangerous effect on people, as well as cinema films and
plays, most of which may be a stumbling block.
We should then be careful regarding all this whether with
respect to ourselves or our children.
The adults and the young:
A adult should be very careful in his words and behaviour
lest he should offend the young or the weak, as the
Apostle says, "But beware lest you become a stumbling
block to those who are weak" (1 Cor. 8:9). And he
repeats, "the weak brother... for whom Christ died..."
(1 Cor. 8:11), and says also, "Therefore, if food makes
my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I
make my brother stumble" (1 Cor. 8:13). The Apostle
says concerning conscience, "Conscience, I say, not your
own, but that of the other... not seeking my own profit,
but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1Cor.
The Lord Christ spoke about offenses and warned against
offending the young, saying, "But whoever causes one of
these little ones who believe in Me to sin... Woe to that
man by whom the offense comes!" (Matt. 18:6,7).
The strong may be able to resist the causes of offense,
but what about the weak?
By the strong we mean the person who is spiritually
strong, who has self control and maturity. Such a strong
person can discern what is wrong and can resist it.
However, he may fall in condemning its doer. But the
problem is that of offending the weak, the young or the
A weak person may say: If the adult falls, what can I, the
weak person, do? He may yield or fall out of despair or
A weak person stumbles when he sees the ideals fall
Therefore St. Paul the Apostle reprimanded St. Peter the
Apostle before the others, saying, "If you, being a Jew,
live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why
do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?" (Gal. 2:14). St.
Paul said this because he found, "that even Barnabas was
carried away with their hypocrisy" (Gal. 2:13). Barnabas
was thus offended by them.
Adults should hence be careful in their behaviour; by this
I mean the parents in the family, the teachers towards the
pupils, the ministers towards those whom they serve, the
priests towards the congregation and the guides towards
those who seek their counsel.
They ought not be a stumbling block with their
conversation, behaviour, movement and features.
They should be keen about keeping order, obeying the
law and keeping the commandments. When deacons, for
example, are careful not to talk during prayer, and are
careful to respect the altar and the prayers, they can be an
example to the congregation. Likewise when they behave
in a wrong way, they will be an offense to the
congregation who may follow their example.
The person who talks in church during prayers
commits many faults:
First : Not respecting the church, not respecting the
prayers, and lack of God's fear in their heart.
Second : He becomes an offense to others, who will
either imitate him, or commit the sin of condemning him.
The same may be said about a person who keeps looking
at his watch during a meeting or a sermon, or who leaves
church before the final blessing or dismissal.
A person should avoid being a stumbling block, even
if his behaviour is not wrong.
When the Lord Christ was asked to pay tax, knowing that
tax was only to be taken from strangers, said to Peter,
"Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in
a hook and take the fish... you will find a piece of
money; take that and give it to them for Me and you"
In order not to offend them also, He went to be baptized
by John the Baptist to set the example for repentance,
though He needed no repentance.
The Lord Christ obeyed the law in many things
which were not necessary for Him, and St. Mary also
did the same so that they might not be an offense to
Some have a strict conscience that doubts everything and
thinks that right is wrong, and others have free
conscience that justifies many actions.
Conscience also has a relation to offense, as the following
examples will show:
Is beauty, for example, a stumbling block?
Suppose there is a beautiful girl: some look at her and
lust for her. Is she considered a stumbling block for
them? And if so, what is her guilt?
She is not a stumbling block. The stumbling block is in
the hearts of those who lust for her. It is their fault not
hers. Take for example St. Justina who was very pretty
and when someone lusted for her he resorted to magic to
be able to have her. Was that saint an offense to him?
No, but the offense was in the heart of that impure man.
And what do you say about the two angels whom the
people of Sodom lusted for?
Were the two angels a cause of offense? God forbid. It
was the fault of those deviant people. Therefore, the two
angels struck them with blindness as a punishment for
their impure lust (Gen. 19:4-11).
The scribes and Pharisees criticized the Lord Christ
because He worked miracles on the Sabbath. Was the
Lord Christ an offense to them? God forbid. It was lack
of understanding on their part a lack of purity in their
The offense came from within them.
Many saints were accused unjustly by people, such as St.
Macarius the Great, St. Marina, and St. Aphram the
Syrian. These saints were not stumbling blocks and so
God revealed their innocence. Hence, let us contemplate
on the words of the Apostle, "To the pure all things are
pure" (Titus 1:15). The impure are offended by many
things, for they think in an impure way, whereas the pure
think with purity and so they are not offended by the
things that offend others.
Only a pure conscience can judge justly on these
The Lord commanded us to conceal our virtues. But if
we conceal our prayers, our fasting and our almsgiving
according to the Lord's command (Matthew 6), will this
offend people in that they will think we do not pray or
fast? Or should we reveal our virtues in order not to
offend them even though we break the Lord's
commandment by this? It is a matter of conscience.
The important thing is that we do not provide a cause
In this case if someone is offended because of us - though
we do not mean it - it will be his guilt.
Can we say that David the Prophet was an offense to
King Saul, when he defeated Goliath?
Undoubtedly not. David could not have left Goliath
defy the armies of the Lord, and he attributed the
victory to the Lord, saying to Goliath, "This day the
Lord will deliver you into my hand, for the battle is the
Lord's, and He will give you into our hands"
What offended Saul was the jealousy in his heart when
the women sang, "Saul has slain his thousands, and
David his ten thousands" (1 Sam.18:7).
David the Prophet said also in the Psalm: "Those who
hate me without a cause, Are more than the hairs of my
head" (Ps. 69:4).
Had David offended them, so they hated him? No, for he
said they hated him without a cause. The cause was
malice they bare in their hearts, the jealousy of his
godliness and victories or their desire to usurp his power
as they had done with Absalom.
Some people - in order not to offend - become
They pretend righteousness in order not to offend others
by their sins.
They may also pretend fasting so as not to offend people
while in fact they are not fasting. In this way, they fall
into two sins: breaking the fast and hypocrisy.
One should not feign righteousness to avoid being a
cause of offense! The right thing is to behave well and be
actually righteous in order not to offend people.
THE CONCEPT OF MEEKNESS
The importance of meekness:
The most beautiful verses on the importance of
gentleness or meekness are :
The words of the Lord Christ - glory be to him, "Learn
from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). All perfection
existed in the Lord Christ, yet He concentrated on
gentleness in the first place and revealed that it is a cause
of rest for the soul.
St. Paul the Apostle introduced gentleness as a fruit of
the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).
St. James the Apostle said, "Who is wise and
understanding among you? Let him show by good
conduct that his works are done in the meekness of
wisdom" (James 3:13).
In the Beatitudes, the Lord mentioned it at the beginning,
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth"
In the Psalms meekness is beatified in many places among
which is: "But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall
delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Ps.
St. Peter the Apostle, speaking about the adornment of
women, said, "the incorruptible ornament of a gentle
and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of
God" (1 Pet. 3:4).
Since gentleness or meekness is of such importance let us
What is meekness and what are the attributes of the
What is gentleness?
A meek or gentle person is calm, good-natured,
lenient, and cheerful. He is calm, does not get angry,
agitated, or furious, but their voice is gentle and pleasant.
He does not get nervous for he is composed.
The Lord Christ in His meekness was described as, "He
will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His
voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break,
and smoking flax He will not quench" (Matt. 12:19,20),
A meek person is calm internally and externally. Peace
dominates his heart, so he does not feel anxious or
disturbed. He is on peaceful terms with all, he attacks no
one, hurts no one, is not harsh, and is not revengeful,
even when attacked.
The meek person never interferes in the affairs of others,
nor sets himself a guard over their works. Thus he
condemns no one, and even if he interferes in correcting
someone, he does it calmly as the Apostle said,
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who
are spiritual restore such one in a spirit of gentleness,
considering yourself lest you also be tempted."
(Gal. 6:1). He restores such a brother by calm persuasion,
in humbleness fearing lest he himself be tempted.
A meek person bears others with long-suffering. He is
tolerant; he puts before him the words of the Scriptures,
"A soft answer turns away wrath" (Prov. 15:1).
He looks towards God's example in forbearance and
long-sufferance towards sinners.
He never grumbles either in his relation with God or with
people, but on the contrary, he is always cheerful and
The meek person is often shy. He is known for his
bashfulness and even as one of the fathers said, 'He does
not look fully at anyone's face'. He does not examine
one's features nor go deep within them to know their
He does not analyze people and their feelings for his
looks are simple. He is shy and always bashful.
The meek are easy to deal with. He is simple; he has
no cunning, craftiness or malice. He is plain; does not
conceal things and show others, nor complicate matters.
He is clear in his dealings; does not beat around the bush
nor makes plans. Dealing with him gives comfort
because he is simple, clear and pleasant.
He is gentle, sweet and good-natured. He is loved by
all because he is good. Even if he is oppressed by some,
many will defend him and rebuke the person who
oppressed him, saying, 'Have you found no one but this
good person to treat unjustly?' Moreover, the person
who treated him unjustly would come eventually and
apologize to the person he accused and also those who
defended the accused, because he did no harm but
showed love and gentleness to all people. Suffice that the
Lord says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
the earth" (Matt.5:5). He will inherit the earth and
heaven as well, besides having God's grace with him
A meek person is obliging. He is inclined to comfort
people and not resist them. He does not go on arguing,
discussing, persisting and inquiring but does what is good
and quietly, immediately without delay and without
discussion. He does not hold to his views in every thing
as some may do, but lets it pass as long as the matter is
not against the commandment. Therefore he is not
biased, for he loves all people.
A meek person maintains his meekness.
He does not lose his meekness when he holds a high
position or enjoys some authority. He maintains his
meekness whatever high position he attains. His heart is
not elevated by the power of authority.
The meek does not lose his meekness while correcting
others. If he is in a position that gives him an authority to
correct others, he does it without being harsh or severe
and without coarse behaviour or voice.
He does not lose his meekness if he defends what is right.
He defends quietly without hurting the feeling of anyone.
Even when he speaks frankly, his frankness is not hurting;
for he expresses what he wants to say in a gentle way.
At this point we remember the way the Lord Christ
talked to the Samaritan woman. He revealed to her
everything gently without hurting her feelings (John 4).
A truly meek person never loses his meekness under the
pretext of being firm or bold or by misusing power and
A person cannot say that he lost his meekness because he
was born with a fiery temper. Moses the Black was of
this kind, but he acquired meekness through the life of
repentance. He began his life with harshness, but he
trained himself until he became a very kind hearted
Meekness and courage:
Some people misunderstand meekness, imagining
that the meek is a sluggish person with no influence
or effectiveness and that meekness is mere slackening!
Those people may ridicule the meek and treat them with
disdain. They may mock him because of his tolerance
and patience. They think that because the meek do not
condemn people, he would do nothing if he saw evil
prevailing over good! No. This is not true meekness.
The right concept of meekness recognizes being
connected with manliness, self-respect, courage and
We usually remember that the meek person is actually a
good, lenient and indulgent person and ignore that he has
also courage, self respect and gallantry!
The profound words said in the Book of Ecclesiastes,
apply to the conduct of the meek in various situations :
"To everything there is a season, a time for every
purpose under heaven... a time to keep silence, and a
time to speak" (Eccl.3:1,7).
Goodness is the general nature of the meek. However,
there is time in his life for courage and time for gallantry,
but without violence in any case.
The Lord Christ in His meekness and firmness:
The Lord Christ, the great example of whom it was
said, "He will not quarrel or cry out, nor will anyone
hear His voice in the streets," we see Him firm and
strong in cleansing the Temple and driving out those who
bought and sold there, saying to them, "It is written 'My
house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have
made it a den of thieves'" (Matt. 21:12,13).
He was also strong and firm in reprimanding the scribes
and Pharisees (Matt. 23).
He was firm in explaining the Law of the Sabbath and
doing good on that day, though He found resistance.
Moses the prophet:
He was known for his amazing gentleness and
humbleness: "Now the man Moses was very humble,
more than all men who were on the face of the earth"
When Moses came down from the mountain with the two
tablets of the Testimony in his hand and saw the people
singing and dancing in worship of a golden calf, he was
not passive under pretext of humbleness and gentleness
but became hot with anger, cast the tablets out of his
hands and broke them. Then he took the calf which they
made, burnt it in the fire and ground it to powder and
scattered it on the water (Ex. 32:19,20). He reprimanded
Aaron the high priest who shook before him.
David the Prophet:
Was bold and brave when he saw Goliath defying the
armies of the living God, whereas all the army stood in
fear in front of that valiant.
The gentle David was the only one who could say, "who
is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the
armies of the living God?" (1 Sam. 17:26).
He inquired from the people about him and was not
affected when his elder brother scorned him. Then he
said to King Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of
him... " (1 Sam. 17:32), and drew near and fought the
Philistine without fear and said to him, "You come to me
with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I
come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts... This day
the Lord will deliver you into my hand".
This is David, the gentle youth, with the flute and lyre
and at the same time the zealous warrior and valiant.
St. Paul the Apostle:
A good natured calm person who when rebuking the
Corinthians said to them, "Now I, Paul, myself am
pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of
Christ, who in presence am lowly among you, but being
absent am bold toward you" (2 Cor. 10:1).
And to the Ephesians he said, "remember that for three
years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day
with tears" (Acts 20:31).
In spite of this meekness and gentleness, St. Paul was like
a lion in preaching and evangelizing. When he was
speaking about righteousness, self-control and the
judgment to come, Felix the Governor was afraid and
answered him, "Go away for now; when I have a
convenient time I will call for you" (Acts 24:25).
And when he stood before King Agrippa, the King said to
him, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian"
In spite of his meekness, St. Paul also did not refrain from
rebuking St. Peter the Apostle, and said, "But when I saw
that they were not straight forward about the truth of the
gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'If you, being a
Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews,
why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?"
Elihu, the son of Barachel :
The fourth friend of Job. Because of his meekness he
kept silent while Job's three other friends were talking
(their speeches taking 28 Chapters of the Book of Job).
Elihu did not open his mouth due to his exceeding
meekness, seeing that the other three were older than
However, he could not keep silent more than this when
he found that all the others spoke wrongly. The
Scripture says, "Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of
Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused
against Job ... his wrath was aroused because he
justified himself rather than God. Also against his three
friends his wrath was aroused because they had found no
answer, and yet had condemned Job ... and said, 'I am
young in years, and your are very old; therefore I was
afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you ..."
(Job 32:2-7). Then he proceeded to rebuke them.
Indeed, there is a time for every purpose under heaven.
There is time for the silence of the meek and a time for
talk, a time for his gentleness and a time for his firmness.
If one of your relatives is about to marry a
particular person without receiving permission or the
blessing from the church would you keep silent under the
pretext of meekness and gentleness, or would you warn
your relative concerning the probability of a harmful
If you keep silent, then this is not meekness, for you
ought to warn your relative against this wrong situation
and explain to him calmly the reasons why. This is not
against meekness as long as you explain the matter
without being insulting or hurting. Just say the words of
St. John the Baptist, "It is not lawful for you to have her"
Or if you see one of your acquaintances about to
end a marriage, would you keep silent for the sake of
meekness? No. You should say to him this is wrong and
God will not bless such a marriage if you end it.
This does not contradict with meekness. You are not
asked to become enraged and to shout, but simply just to
God loves Truth, and loves to see us defending it
in the right way. He says in the Book of Jeremiah, "Run
to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and
know and seek in her open places if you can find a man,
if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the
truth, and I will pardon her" (Jer. 5:1).
Defending truth is a virtue which God requires. If you
walk in it you will walk in righteousness, and this is not
against meekness as long as you follow the right way.
THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH & JUSTICE
Truth is fact:
The first concept of Truth is the true fact.
The Lord Christ often started His talk with the words,
"Assuredly, I say to you," "Most assuredly I say to you."
(Matt. 8:10), (John 5:19,24,25), (John 8:34,51,58).
In law courts a witness swears, saying, 'I'll say the truth,
all the truth, and nothing but the truth'. There is also an
important principle which states, half facts are not facts.
The seriousness of half facts:
It is said that half facts do not fairly present facts.
A woman may complain that her husband has wronged
her, however, she neglects to mention how she too has
wronged him. Thus, she only considers the situation from
Someone else may say that he was punished by the
Church, or dismissed from work but does not mention the
Thus his words do not give a true presentation of the
This is why investigations are made in lawsuits, for
the purpose of ascertaining the true facts.
The fact is complete when the matter is researched from
all aspects, opinions presented from both sides, the cause
and the consequence examined and the action and the
reaction known. When one side is heard, the fact is not
clear. Therefore, the investigator needs to confront both
When anyone tells you something, you ought to
question the reason.
This reminds us of the true saying 'when the reason is
known, there will be no wonder'. If someone says to you,
for example, 'My father confessor prevented me from
talking to so and so', do not be amazed thinking that the
father confessor creates quarrels. Perhaps if you knew
the reason, you would know that that person is a
stumbling block to another and causes him to sin, causes
him irritation, or encourages bad thoughts. In other
words, having friendship with him comes within the
scope of the verse, "Evil company corrupts good habits"
(1 Cor. 15:33), or the verse, "Put away from yourselves
that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13), or the words of the
Psalmist : "Blessed is the man. Who walks not in the
counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful" (Ps. 1).
The principle: Half facts are not facts, apply to
theological matters as well.
An example of this is the case of using one verse and
ignoring other verses relating to the same subject by
which full understanding of doctrine can be realized. For
example a person may speak about faith alone saying it is
written, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will
be saved, you and our household" (Acts 16:31).
We answer such a person, saying, 'use this verse in
conjunction with the words of the Lord, "He who
believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16), and
the words of St. Peter the Apostle to the Jews on the
Day of Pentecost, "Repent, and let ever one of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"
So, when anyone says to you: 'It is written so and
so...', answer him: 'It is also written so and so...'
This is the clear way of debating and refuting thoughts
which the Lord Christ used in the temptation on the
Mount. This is the way by which truth represents the
whole fact, otherwise, if anything is concealed the fact
will be misunderstood.
Another meaning for truth is related to people's
It is therefore said: Give everyone his right. And hence
came the expression "human rights". Previously the
Ministry of Justice was called "The Ministry of Lawful
Rights" and the Faculty of Law in Arabic is called,
'Faculty of Rights' as the law relates to people's rights and
The opposite to the word "right" here is iniquity by which
rights are lost.
It refers to what is due and what is not.
It refers to what one has the right to do and not to do,
just as the thief on the right hand of the Lord on the cross
said to the other thief, "And we indeed justly, for we
receive the due reward of our deeds" (Luke 23:41).
Hence also came the word "worthy to partake of the holy
sacraments", or "eats in an unworthy manner" (1Cor.
11:27), that is, no one has the right to partake of the holy
sacraments if they are not repentant and do not have
purity of heart.
Perhaps this was what the lost son meant when he said to
his father, "I.. am no longer worthy to be called your
son" (Luke 15:21), and also, "a worker is worthy of his
food" (Matt. 10:10), (Luke 10:7).
Truth versus Falsehood:
Another concept of truth is connected with its being
opposite to falsity.
True gold is other than false gold, and a true marriage,
that is, a lawful marriage is opposite to an unlawful
marriage. And it is said of the Lord Christ that He is "the
true Light" (John 1:9), and of John the Baptist that ,"He
was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that
Light" (John 1:8).
The Lord Christ said about Himself, "I am the light of the
world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness"
(John 8:12). And He said to us, "You are the light of the
world" (Matt. 5:14). Even though He called us the light,
He is the true Light because He is Himself light whereas
we see light only through His light. The light of the sun
is true light, whereas the light of the moon is not because
it is mere reflection of the sun's light on it. Without the
light of the sun, the moon becomes dark.
The meaning here is true and genuine and can be
applied to many examples.
A person may say that he is the spiritual son of a certain
priest, but in fact he is not because he does not obey or
Someone may say that he has repented whereas he is not
repenting, because every time he repents, he returns again
Another person may say that he always prays, but in fact
he does not pray, because he talks to God with his mouth
only and his heart is far from him.
Or a person who says that he is fasting but in actual fact
he is not; he is a vegetarian who cares to make his food
delicious. Such a person has no self control during
fasting and is not considered fasting according to the
spiritual rules of fast.
With regard to God, He is the only true God (John
Many were called gods, however, this was merely a title,
for they were not truly gods. Take for example what is
stated in the Psalms: "God stands in the congregation of
the might; He judges among the gods" (Ps. 82:1). And,
"I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are children of the
Most High. But you shall die like men..." (Ps. 82:6,7).
The Lord said also to Moses, "See, I have made you as
God to Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:1). "As God" here means to be
master, not to be Creator, Almighty or Omnipresent.
And it is said also that "all the gods of the peoples are
idols" (Ps. 96:5). This is the difference between truth and
The same distinction was made by St. Paul the
Apostle concerning widows.
He said, "do not let the church be burdened, that it may
relieve those who are really widows" (1 Tim. 5:16).
The same can be said regarding a true believer and
children of God.
Many are called God's children and pray, saying, "Our
Father who are in heaven", yet they are not real children;
for the words of St. John the Apostle do not apply to
them: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin,"
"and the wicked one does not touch him," "and he
cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (1 John
The words of the Apostle about the Lord do not apply to
such people, "If you know that He is righteous, you know
that everyone who practices righteousness is born of
Him" (1 John 2:29).
St. James the Apostle says about the person who says
that he is a believer but does not demonstrate his faith
through works, "But do you want to know, O foolish
man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20).
St. Paul the Apostle says very serious words,
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the
faith. prove yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5).
See also what hard words the Lord said to the angel of
the Church in Sardis, "You have a name that you are
alive, but you are dead" (Rev. 3:1).
The word "alive" here is not the true name which that
angel deserved; for he was not really alive but spiritually
The truth begins with the principles or values which a
person observes in life.
Whatever conforms with sound spiritual values is truth,
and whatever conforms with sound theological doctrines
is right and the opposite is false and vain.
Truth is opposed to hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is against reality because it involves falsehood
and the interior is different from the exterior. Therefore
the Lord Christ reprimanded the scribes and Pharisees as
hypocrites because they were like whitewashed tombs
which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are
full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness (Matt.
The hypocrite shows himself to be something different
from what he really is.
Flattery also is against truth:
Flattery is praising another person insincerely to please
him or to defend him whereas the fact is different and
what the flatterer thinks or feels in his heart is the
opposite of what he says.
The truth is also lost under the pretext of courtesy or
Or rather under the name of false love, as when a person
pretends that he is a friend to someone and leads him to
ruin or encourages him to do something wrong. His
insincere encouragement may cause his friend to continue
doing wrong. Under the pretense of love - which is false
love - he ruins his friend completely.
There is also a mother who - thinking that she loves her
son - spoils him. Her love is not true love.
Also a youth may pretend that he loves a girl while his
relation with her is mere lust without love. Under the
pretext of love he may spoil her reputation and ruin her
life. This is not love in its true meaning since it has no
Here we mention also those who falsely defend people
who do wrong. They forget the words of the Scriptures:
"He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the
just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord"
The reason is that both of these work against the truth.
Some may not like the expression "condemns the just"
and think it unfair. But in fact people often disregard
one's faults and consider him innocent, feeling some sort
of compassion and mercy, even though they work against
truth. If this person's compassion was sincere, it would
have lead the sinner to repentance.
On the other hand justifying the wicked will not make
him realize his fault, and therefore he will continue in his
way without repentance and hence the person who
justified him would have done him harm.
However, someone may justify a wicked person out of
Yet he is also an abomination to the Lord. My advice to
such a person is: Defend the truth instead of defending
If you defend someone, you may be deviating from the
In order to defend the truth, you ought to know it. Many
people do not have such knowledge and may follow
rumours or take knowledge from people who do not have
the true knowledge.
Some may claim that they are defending the truth
whereas they are in fact far from it.
Another person may defend the truth - or what he
thinks is the truth - in a way so far from the truth.
He may go beyond what he is allowed to say or defame
someone, condemn him, cause harm and hurt the feelings
of others, or spread false information. In this case he
would have done so much wrong against others and
committed sin that God will condemn him.
He may argue that he is defending the truth even
though it is in an illegitimate way!
Therefore, if you want to hold on to the truth, ignore
rumours and do not trust every statement you hear.
Remember also that who is against the truth is against
God Himself, and the reason is that :
God is Truth, absolute Truth.
Truth is God:
The Lord Christ - glory be to him - said, "And you shall
know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free" (John
8:32); and also, "I am the way, the truth, and the life"
(John 14:6). So whoever keeps away from truth, keeps
far away from God, and here lies the danger.
A truthful person is a person who lives according to
values and principles. A truthful person has God's Spirit
in him because God's Spirit is "the Spirit of truth" (John
14:17; 15,26). Whoever keeps away from truth keeps
away from God's Spirit, and whoever separates himself
from the truth separates himself from God.
A truthful person does not measure with two elements;
one for his beloved and the other for others, or else he
will have separated himself from the truth.
The devil separated himself from God's communion, so
the Lord said "he is a liar and the father of it" (John
8:44), "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does
not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him"
See also how Ananias and Sapphira were punished
for their lie. St. Peter said to Ananias, "You have not
lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:4).
THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE
God gave us a mind that can receive knowledge.
But He wanted us to know what is useful and of
benefit to us, and also what may be of use and benefit
to others; whether individuals or groups.
However, the problem that faced man from the beginning
was that he wanted to know everything, even to know
evil. The first man knew only good, but when he ate
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he knew
also evil and thus caused harm to himself.
Be sure of the soundness of any knowledge you
receive. Be sure of its benefit before accepting it.
Know also that knowledge is not a goal in itself but a
means for your benefit. So choose this kind of useful
Kinds of knowledge:
There is a sensuous knowledge which comes to a person
through senses. People know it by sight, touch, smell or
hearing. Another kind of knowledge comes through the
mind by study or inference.
Some knowledge is a kind of divine manifestation or
God reveals to His holy people what He wants them to
know. He does this through the Holy Spirit of which it is
said in the Book of Isaiah the Prophet, "the Spirit of
wisdom and understanding... the Spirit of knowledge"
This was the knowledge the Psalmist requested in his
prayers : "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your
paths" (Ps. 25:4).
It is the best knowledge of which we say in the Liturgy of
St. Gregory, 'You have given me the ability to know
You'. Of this knowledge also the Lord Christ said in His
soliloquy with the Father, "And this is eternal life, that
they may know You, the only true God... " (John 17:3),
and also, "O righteous Father! The world has not known
You, but I have known You... " (John 17:25). In regards
to granting His disciples divine knowledge, "And I have
declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the
love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in
them" (John 17:26).
It is then the knowledge which leads to God's love
and to God's dwelling in us.
A scientist is fond of seeking knowledge that gives an
idea, for example, about the moon and planets by
manufacturing very expensive spaceships, his fondness to
know God is much less. He becomes very happy when
he brings some stones from the moon or even some
photos, because these give some knowledge about nature
which is God's creation without enjoying God Himself.
The same can be said about many of the discoveries of
There is knowledge that comes from other sources.
It may come through books, newspapers, films, or other
varied mass media. Knowledge may also come from
friends or colleagues.
There is knowledge that comes through the devil.
The devil may cast such knowledge into the minds of
people as he did with Eve. The devil may also give
certain knowledge through a thought, a dream or through
one of his supporters. The knowledge he gives may be
false knowledge. It may also be true knowledge but the
devil uses it for evil purposes.
A person may seek to obtain knowledge from the devil
through magic, calling up the dead or the spirits or by any
other means which the divine revelation prohibited,
"There shall not be found among you... Who practices
witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens,
or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium,
or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who
do these things are an abomination to the Lord... "
King Saul was an example of those who fell into this sin
when he sought knowledge from a woman who was a
medium at En Dor (1 Sam. 28:7)
Other examples also are those who seek soothsayers,
palmists or clairvoyants, or those who read coffee cup,
call up spirits through hypnotism and the like; all of which
are described by God as "abominations of nations"
How do you know that such knowledge you obtain is
truth and will not be used to lead you astray?
Know then that any information given to you by the devil
is not freely given, nor without a wicked purpose to harm
you or to put you under his authority and leadership.
Another kind of knowledge is knowing yourself.
"Know yourself" is a wise saying by Socrates the
You can gain great benefits from knowing yourself.
When you know that you are dust and ash, you will be
humbled. When you are aware of your sins, you will be
regretful, repentful and contrite. When you know your
nature and the wars within you, you will be able to
overcome them. And when you know your talents, you
will use them to glorify God.
There is also the knowledge of God's Holy Scriptures
St. Paul the Apostle said to his disciple St. Timothy,
"from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through
faith... " (2 Tim. 3:15). This Scripture "is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
Through knowing this Scripture, you will know the
Lord's path and know how the saints walked it.
With such knowledge you will have wisdom and
You will know what is good for you and you will discern
God's path from the devils deception and craftiness. And
when you know this, "you will save both yourself and
those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16).
Through this knowledge you will be able to discern spirits
as St. John the Apostle said, "Do not believe every spirit,
but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because
many false prophets have gone out into the world"
(1 John 4:1).
Know others in order to know how to deal with them.
This applies to friendship, whether it be at work, socially,
or within the family. You ought to know and be aware of
the differing personalities and characters so that you may
best know how to deal with each person. You should be
aware of how to deal with adults, as well as
understanding the nature of children.
Also, it is important to be aware of the psychology of,
say, the handicapped, the retarded, the orphaned, the
barren, and so on, so that you may best deal with each
Know God, and know that He sees you wherever you
God knows your thoughts, your intentions, your desires
and your sins. If you know this, you will be ashamed of
every wicked thought or lustful desire. Put before you
the words which God repeats in all His messages to the
angels of the seven churches in Asia, "I know your works"
This knowledge is capable of bringing God's fear into
Be keen on knowing truth, and when you know it
How beautiful are the words of David the Prophet in the
Psalm, "Open my eyes, that I may see ... Turn away my
eyes from looking at worthless things" (Ps. 119:18,37).
Try also to know the needs of people so that you may be
able to provide for them.
Try to know the way of salvation, to walk its path and
lead others onto the path as well.
Be aware of knowledge which may be beyond your
About this Job the Prophet said, "I have uttered what I
did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I
did not know" (Job 42:3).
Many people search theological matters beyond their
spiritual level, so they deviate. Others search matters
relating to the world of spirits and their thoughts lead
them astray. You ought then to be humble. Search only
matters that lead you to your salvation.
Some knowledge is very harmful like that in which our
father Adam and our mother Eve fell. It led them to lose
their innocence and simplicity and live in the dualism of
good and evil, truth and falsity, the lawful and the
unlawful. Their children lived and still live in this dualism
up to the present day.
True then are the words of the Wise Solomon in the book
of Ecclesiastes, "For in much wisdom is much grief"
These words relate to the knowledge of harmful things
that are of no benefit to a person, but may actually cause
him harm. At times he may claim that such knowledge is
merely general knowledge, not realizing its danger!
Therefore one of the spiritual fathers said the following
beneficial words : 'Sometimes we make an effort to know
things for which we shall not be condemned on the Day
of Judgment for ignorance thereof . If we are not to be
condemned for not knowing these matters, how much
rather shall we be condemned for knowing things that are
harmful for us and that have a bad impact on us?'
Keep in mind the consequences of such harmful
Whatever knowledge comes to your mind will affect your
senses and feelings, and will affect your relationship with
others. Moreover, such knowledge will be stored in your
This knowledge will affect and influence your
subconscious in the form of suspicions, thoughts or
dreams. It will extend within you and outside to a great
extent and you may not be able to stop it or its harmful
Therefore we should use our intellect in accepting only
matters which are of benefit to us and to others.
Many people wept and regretted knowledge which
have been stored in their minds.
They wished they would have not known such things
whether by reading about it or experiencing through the
senses. They feel at a loss as to how to remove such
knowledge from their minds after it being implanted in
An example is those who fall into drug addiction, and are
unable to get out of it.
Some kind of knowledge changes one's look to
various matters and even to certain people.
Our mother Eve, after taking the harmful, deceitful
knowledge from the serpent, changed her perception
towards the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
which was in the midst of the garden and which she
perhaps was everyday.
After such knowledge, Eve "saw that the tree was good
for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree
desirable to make one wise" (Gen. 3:6).
After her perception towards the tree changed, lust
entered into her heart to eat of it. So, "she took of its
fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her,
and he ate."
Another kind of harmful knowledge is doubt. A scientist
once said, 'It is easy for doubt to enter one's mind.
But it is difficult to cast it out.'
So, if you give an ear to someone who throws doubt in
your heart regarding a certain person, by making false
accusations, or if you indulge in reading harmful material
which might make you suspicious concerning your faith
or the Scriptures, you will have to exert much effort to
rid yourself of such suspicions. This doubtfulness might
last a long time, until God's grace visits you and relieves
you of your suspicions.
A person should, therefore, be careful in choosing the
source of his knowledge.
Keep your mind pure and do not blot it with harmful
knowledge. Be very careful regarding what you read,
hear or see; and be careful in choosing the friends who
impart knowledge or bring you harmful experiences,
harmful information or inappropriate thoughts. Do not
let such knowledge abide in your mind except after being
completely assured of it and after ascertaining what is
true and what is false.
Do not think that thoughts are of no concern, for
thoughts often bring forth many other thoughts.
One word which comes to your mind may, for example,
produce a story or more. Know then that protecting
oneself from a thought is much better than accepting it
and later having to rid yourself of it.
Be very careful regarding the transfer of knowledge
Some harmful knowledge may come to you, and you by
turn transfer it to another and cause him harm. After
suffering from this knowledge, you try to rid yourself of
it, and by God's grace you do, however, what about the
other person you have relayed this harmful information
to? You will be condemned for the harm you caused to
the other person. In this case, your sin did not harmed
you but has harmed the person you transferred that
harmful knowledge to.
It is your past which follows you; the harmful
knowledge you have spread, whether by speech,
writing or other means.
Those who commit the sin of judging and belittling others
by conveying wrong things about them, or speaking
about their mistakes, will be tortured by their conscience
which may awaken them and reprove them for what they
This applies also to those who invent or spread rumours
for the intention of either harming others, or simply for
sinful amusement. They speak about the secrets of other
people, and may even add their imagination to the story.
Knowledge of trivialities:
Your brain is like a computer with a certain capacity
for collecting data.
So, you ought not occupy a large part of it with
trivialities which may hinder from storing useful things.
Keep only what you need or what is necessary for your
life, and serves a useful purpose, and know that whatever
you keep in your mind will certainly be revealed whether
intentionally or unintentionally. There may be some
information kept in your subconscience some years ago
and you find them coming out unexpectedly on any
occasion you are not prepared for.
Some use their minds in collecting futile and vain
This may not be in itself a sin, but such knowledge
occupies the mind with trivialities and distracts it from
spiritual and theological matters.
It thus hinders the mind from positive work which builds
your spiritual life and prevents the mind from useful
These people may also transfer such trivial knowledge
They transfer it through their conversation with others
which is of no benefit. It is merely the wasting of time
which can be used in other productive things.
I wish you would only occupy your mind with
constructive knowledge which would help strengthen
your personality, elevate your feelings and promote your
spiritualities, and which will be useful to humanity or to
the community in which you live.
- BACK TO MAIN MENU
- TEN CONCEPTS
- CHAPTER ONE: THE CONCEPT OF POWER
- Power is one of God's attributes:
- Sources of power:
- The power of the spirit:
- Self power:
- The power of the nerves:
- The power of love :
- The power of the personality:
- The Will power:
- The power of prayers and faith:
- CHAPTER TWO: THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM
- God likes everyone to be free:
- You are not entitled to absolute freedom:
- Restrictions against freedom are for your benefit :
- Real freedom is to free yourself of your faults:
- He who is freed from sin internally
- Some may restrain themselves to attain real freedom:
- CHAPTER THREE: THE CONCEPT OF REST & FATIGUE
- Types of rest:
- The bodily rest:
- Fatigue between the self and the spirit:
- Internal fatigue:
- Clear conscience:
- Fatigue in the field of ministry:
- CHAPTER FOUR: THE CONCEPT OF AMBITION
- Sinful ambition:
- Difference between the two kinds of ambition :
- CHAPTER FIVE: THE CONCEPT OF SIN
- Sin is against God:
- Sin with regard to man:
- CHAPTER SIX: THE CONCEPT OF LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
- Love is due to God in the first place:
- Kinds of love:
- Wrong love:
- Practical Love:
- The relationship with God:
- CHAPTER SEVEN: THE CONCEPT OF OFFENSE
- What is an offense :
- Knowledge of sin:
- Facilitating sin:
- Tasting sin:
- Giving another name to sin:
- Kinds of offenses:
- Bad Example:
- Culture and the Mass Media:
- The adults and the young:
- CHAPTER EIGHT: THE CONCEPT OF MEEKNESS
- The importance of meekness:
- What is gentleness?
- Losing meekness:
- Meekness and courage:
- CHAPTER NINE: THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH & JUSTICE
- Truth is fact:
- The seriousness of half facts:
- People's rights:
- Truth versus Falsehood:
- Truth lost:
- Truth is God:
- CHAPTER TEN: THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE
- Kinds of knowledge:
- Harmful knowledge:
- Knowledge of trivialities: