Church Scandals Must Come by Fr Stephen

edited November 2012 in Faith Issues
I want to discuss this article

Glory to God for All Things
Church Scandals Must Come
Oct 20th, 2012 @ 08:41 pm › fatherstephen
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Scandals must come (Matt. 18:7).

These are the words of Christ. He tells us that scandals are not only likely to happen – but that they will happen. They are necessary (ἀνάγκη).

Most readers will marvel that this is a quote from Jesus. The reason is simple: the Greek (ἀνάγκη γάρ ἐστιν ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα) is rarely translated in such a manner. “Stumbling blocks,” or “offenses,” is the more common way to render the word skandala (σκάνδαλα). But the Greek has a very simple cognate in English: scandal.

Why would Christ tell his disciples that scandals must come? It is a description of the nature of things in this world. The entrance of the Kingdom of God and its dwelling among men is not such that men will cease to be broken or evil. Christ warned His disciples that he himself would be betrayed – not by strangers – but by one of them!

And this has ever been the case. From the earliest days of the faith, disciples have been betrayed, misled, robbed, deceived, cheated, taught falsely, raped and abused. There has never been an idyllic season of the Church when such scandals have been absent. In Western Europe where various reform movements have remade Christianity repeatedly – circumstances have presented scandals needing attention – but reforms have never succeeded in ending them. Christ’s words remain true regardless.

Of course, no religious group is free of scandal – I am not as familiar with those of others as I am of our own – but everybody’s got them. And the non-religious are as scandal-ridden as the religious. Hypocrisy is equal opportunity. The problem does not lie within religion or its absence – it is an inherent part of the human condition.

What of Christ’s words? Are scandals part of some Divine Plan? I think that would take his words in the wrong way. The passage begins with the warning, “Woe to the world because of scandals!” and concludes, “Woe to that man by whom the scandal comes!” Of course, the great scandal, is the “falling away,” warned of by Christ and the apostles.

[Christ, speaking of the time of great troubles] And then many will be scandalized, and will betray one another, and will hate one another (Matt. 24:10).

And St. Paul:

[speaking of the coming of Christ] Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first… (2 Thess. 2:3)

We can speculate about the internal nature of the great scandal or the falling away. But there is no New Testament version of the Christian faith that does not contain this aspect. It is part of the most primitive layer of Apostolic Tradition. It is part of Christ’s own teaching.

My experience as a Christian has been that everything “rhymes” with the larger picture of the faith. We can speak about the “last days,” and waste time speculating about such things. But Christian history has been replete with days that fit the pattern offered for those times. There is no Christian journey that is without scandal and a falling away. If we do not fall away, it is not because it never crossed our mind. Everyman in the course of a lifetime has the chance to be Peter or Judas.

If there is an inner necessity to the scandal, it is not within the scandal itself. The inner necessity is within us. The temptation that accompanies scandal is something that must be faced and overcome. Apparently, we cannot enter the kingdom of God without it.

Scandal (a “cause of stumbling”) comes in many forms. It can be as bold as corruption in the hierarchy, or moral turpitude within a priest. It can also be a prayer that we perceive to have been unanswered or God’s strange absence when we thought we could count on him. Anything that causes us to lose heart, to quit, to abandon the journey qualifies as scandal.

We admire the great martyrs and the courage of their suffering. But in most lives, suffering has a very banal quality: it offers us little chance to play the hero. I am very fond of the books on the life and work of Father Arseny. His stories are those of a saint in the Soviet Gulag. Some of the stories are quite miraculous, but most are born of the grace-filled ability to bear the innumerable indignities of a single hour, day after day. Such martyrdom over a period of decades is frightfully boring and tedious. And it is the boredom and tedium that become the scandal that he endured.

Scandal tests and proves the life of the heart. A life lived in the mind (thoughts and emotions) will endure scandal only with the greatest difficulty. Whatever the insult created by an actual scandal, the mind and the emotions will magnify it, rehearse it, argue with it, judge it, replay it repeatedly, become angry and despondent. The work of the mind is much harder to bear than the scandal itself. We are scandalized by our own passions.

The heart does not seek to judge. It understands the nature of righteousness and is not surprised by the presence of sin.

However, I take heart that Christ’s warning concerning the scandal that must come offers no condemnation for those who fall. His truly serious warning is for the one through whom the scandal comes. We all fall (at least everyone I know falls). I pray that when I stumble, I take no one with me. God give us grace.

I find these two prayers (from Orthodox Daily Prayers) to be of great help:

Save, Lord, and have mercy on those whom I have caused to stumble, turning them away from the path of salvation and leading them to evil and unseemly deeds. Return them to the path of salvation by Thy Divine Providence.

Save, Lord, and have mercy on those who hate and offend me, and do me harm. Do not let them perish because of me.



  • I want to discuss the concept that without temptations we can not be saved
    But also how Jesus asked us to pray that we be not led into temptation

    Now if someone commits fornication he would have lost his reputation forever so I don't think God allows that temptation for any .. You have to plot that for ages
    It's not because God is worried about your reputation but the harm it causes

    But is it right that God allows people to be tempted to lust due to loneliness and boredom to see if they are worthy to enter the kingdom ? Like the wise virgins ? To see if they are willing to wait for their master ?

    Or will God actually make sure everyone is tempted to commit fornication ?

    is that why God allows people to be tempted to sin by a heresy because they must be tempted to enter the kingdom ? Is that why God commands people to repent even though they have been hurt or offended by an action of someone because they must be tempted to enter the kingdom ? those who are tempted and overcome are more ready to enter the kingdom for God to be just with all ?
  • noone wants to discuss this possibly life and death issue
  • sorry, there are so many questions, we don't know where to start.
    can you start with the most important question for you?
    we know that God does not tempt us more than we can bear.
    it says this in 1 corinthians 10 verse 13.

  • I think go back to the beginning where Satan seperated from God, and that God gave him permission to be here. Then we find out from there which direction people have chosen, whether to seperate from God or not. The deception is in sin. Are there sinners in church, maybe? We go there for remission of sin and try to be successful in it.

  • The apostles received the keys to the kingdom. Jesus Christ will decide who is saved and who is lost. Man is not perfect and neither were the apostles. The apostles weren't perfect so neither is the church, but they were chosen by Christ so then we are chosen through them. Christ chose His bride and the women was always weaker but one day will be united. In the meantime, look for the remission of sin because Christ came to save what was lost. Are we lost just a little? Then I pray we're found.
  • Beloved mostseriouscopt,
    Thank you for following up on your unanswered inquiry - may the Lord bless and guide your zeal for understanding. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." For your safety, when it comes to matters of interpreting Scripture and understanding our precious faith it is CRITICAL to be very careful with who/where you get your information. Ideally, you should ask your Fr. of Confession or a consecrated servant or any other official source from the Orthodox Church - including articles/books written by H.H. Pope Shenouda III, Fr. Tadros Malaty, etc. and constantly ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding. May our Lord guide us all to know Him better.

    1. First and foremost to begin with your questions and not the article, the notion that God tempts us or in ANY way, shape or form SEEKS that we be tempted is absolutely false. This idea is a deceptive lie that has been attacking humans since the beginning, which is exposed as false and clarified to remove any drop of doubt in the first chapter of James where we are warned, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone." (James 1:13)

    2. So where does temptation come from? The same verse proceeds to explain, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15) Therefore, since each person has different desires, we are also each tempted by different things. Someone wealthy may not be tempted to steal, but instead might be tempted to judge/criticize others. Someone who is tempted by lustful thoughts may not be tempted to judge/criticize...etc. Our enemy watches for our times/areas of weakness & strikes us then/there with appropriate thoughts, images, opportunities, etc. to lead us away from God.

    3. So where do our sinful desires come from? The deception of evil and the corrupted nature of our dying flesh/body. Deception is seen when the serpent fuels desire in Eve for what is forbidden by asking, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" (Gen. 3:1) And then lying, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Gen. 4-5) The truth is that upon eating from that tree in sinful disobedience to God's life-saving command, Adam & Eve indeed died. Death means their eyes became opened to shame and closed to God's love for them. The result of this is that Adam & Eve were cut off from eternal life, and fell from the paradise of joy. Thankfully, rather than let us fall into eternal darkness/death, God permitted to curse the ground for our sake & let us suffer here temporarily until He Himself would come down to us and restore us back to our original state and even better. See Romans 7 & 8.

    4. Therefore, it is also very dangerous to think that, "without temptation we cannot be saved," because it is temptation which leads us to death (evil) and only God Who saves. How then can we say that God Who saves is good, but also think that He needs evil to save? It would be more accurate to say that without temptation (and falling into it) which led to death, we would not need to be saved.

    5. When Christ warns His disciples of the falling away that must come before the last day, He did not mean that falling away was needed for salvation - just that it would happen before the world's destruction. Salvation was accomplished by Christ coming in the likeness of our flesh (same but without sin), being crucified to death on the Cross and resurrecting in a new body fit for the Kingdom of Heaven - which He gives to us through the Holy Spirit & Sacraments of the Church. Since all humankind came out of Adam & Eve after they fell, we are born into a flesh/world that is ruled by death. Therefore it is natural that our bodies desire those things which lead to death, but the spiritual person who puts on Christ overcomes the body & its lusts through His grace and the work of the Holy Spirit inside our depths.
    None of us are worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, so no test is needed to prove this. We do not overcome temptation on our own, but by calling on God and using the spiritual means of the Church (Baptism/Repentance/Confession/Eucharist/Marriage - as well as prayer/fasting/spiritual warfare, etc.) we fight the good fight and witness the power of the Holy Spirit work in our lives - purifying us from evil desires & giving us freedom from the love of this dying flesh and slavery to its lusts/concerns so that we can once again see the unlimited love God has for us and learn to walk in His ways. Along the way, we experience a deep guiding peace, overwhelming joy and a mind-blowing love that is totally out of this world and beyond any human imagination or expression in human words.

    My beloved, mostseriouscopt, do not look downward to focus on stopping your sins/desires and do not fear, but instead keep your eyes upward to focus on getting closer to Christ. It is He Who will give you rest and victory. Always remind yourself that He loves you more than you love yourself.

    My apologies if too lengthy, but this hardly even addresses all your points - hope it helps. If you are indeed most serious, you should definitely read two short books by H.H. Pope Shenouda III, "The Holy Spirit and His Work in Us" and "The Life of Repentance and Purity." I'll try to post a link to the texts if I find them online.

    May the prayers of the saints be with you. Please pray for me!
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