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Sin and Struggle

“It is easy to fall into the devil’s trap of spiritual stagnation. In this lethargy of the spirit, we do not see beneath the surface of our souls. We think that we can rest in the false assurance of our salvation and enjoy a cozy relationship with God. But in today’s reading of Romans 7:14-8:2, we may be surprised at Paul’s description of his inner conflict. He writes, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind” (OSB vs. 22-23). Today we learn to look beneath the complacency of our hearts to the true state of our souls and the inner struggle that we are called to wage.” (Fr. Basil)


“For God to help, one must have a desire to struggle. And when we say a desire to struggle, we mean that one must be willing to make some effort to overcome his particular weakness. If God sees even a little true will, He provides abundant help for man, He sends His Grace in great abundance.” (Saint Paisios of Mount Athos)


“This advice is especially valuable for people with a high sense of sin or who struggle with self-loathing or the inability to forgive themselves. Very often we think we’ve got to keep all this ever in mind. While awareness of sin and transgression has its place, it must nevertheless be set aside if growth in humility is to continue…We have to let go of everything, even our sense of being a miserable failure…Growth does not mean that somehow we are no longer going to struggle with our issues. Much struggle remains with us for a very long time. But what does change is how we experience the struggle. We are able to see with greater clarity what is going on within us as it is happening.” (Martin Laird)


“Let’s say that a person has a bad habit…He or she does it every day, they just give into that temptation every day, if they don’t even think it is wrong but think it’s okay, there is no evidence of a struggle for holiness. Perhaps that is the time to stay away from Holy Communion. If a person struggles hard to abstain from this sin for six days and falls on the seventh day, while that is still a sin, it is a struggle—they have won the battle for six days and lost on the seventh, which is better than losing the battle on all seven days, or worse yet, not being in the battle at all. We need to focus on the struggle. Struggle is good. Staying in the game is good. An occasional fall is part of the struggle. Not trying indicates no struggle.” (Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)


“However, and this is very important, a lifetime of struggle against the passions is not a failure, but a victory. It is not a failure to fall, but it is a failure not to get back up again. It is not a failure to be tempted every day of your life, but it is a failure to tell yourself it doesn’t matter and to come to love your sin. But even then, failure is not the end, for even a very big fall, a fall that has lasted many years, can be repented of. God is always seeking the one sheep that has gone astray.” (Fr. Michael Gillis)


‘Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God’ (1 John 3:9). John is talking in general terms, contrasting this world with the world to come. The Christian, though sinful, does not sin (v. 9; lit., “does not keep on sinning”) as the world does.” (Orthodox Study Bible, 1 John 3:9) 


“…[John] is making a clear distinction between the opponents, who as moral indifferentists downplay the significance of sin in the life of the Christian, and the recipients, who as true Christians recognize the significance of sin because Jesus came to take it away (3:5) and to destroy it as a work of the devil (3:8)…It is clear [John] is not simply exhorting the readers not to be habitual or repetitive sinners, as if to imply that occasional acts of sin would be acceptable. The purpose of the author here is that the readers not sin at all, just as Jesus told the man he healed in John 5:14 “Don’t sin any more.” (NET Bible, 1 John 3:9. 1 John 2:1)


“If someone who is born of God does not sin, how is it that we who have been born of water and the Spirit, and thus of God, do in fact commit sins? The answer is that the phrase “born of God” has two different meanings. According to the first of these, God has given the grace of sonship with all power to those who have been born again. According to the second, the God who has thus given birth is working in us to bring us to perfection. By faith we are born again in principle, but God still has to get to work on us in order to refashion us according to His likeness.” (St. Maximus the Confessor)


“In order for His gracious purposes to be accomplished for us, we must embrace the ongoing struggle of dying to the corrupting power of sin in our lives. No matter how appealing it is in the moment, sin cannot be made holy or offered to God; instead, we must open ourselves to receive Christ’s healing as we turn away from evil by repentance. That is the only way that disordered desires, words, thoughts, and deeds may be set right. We must reorient ourselves toward the Kingdom as we struggle to reject all that would hinder us from becoming more beautiful living icons of the Lord.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)


“When we find our true self, we regain the path for our return and reconnection with God. Then repentance becomes deeply lived, a spiritual experience of God’s grace which cures us of the sickness of sin. Then our struggle acquires a different meaning and dynamic. This means that even if our lapses and weaknesses are frequent, they no longer plunge us into despair. Even if our passions and mistakes are great and try us sorely, they no longer terrify us. No matter how heavy our guilts are, they don’t sicken our souls. Persistent guilt, depression, fear, anxiety, a wounded ego over the sins and mistakes we’ve committed are one thing; inner contrition, humility accompanied by spiritual serenity are quite another. This peace flows from the love and grace of God, who accepts us and awaits us, triumphing over our sinfulness.” (Archimandrite Nikanor Karayannis)


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