Wise Words from 1 Clement

This evening I was translating a bit in 1 Clement and came across Clement’s praise of the pleasant qualities in his readers. Among the various qualities he enumerates, he writes the following in 1 Clement 2:6:

πᾶσα στάσις καὶ πᾶν σχίσμα βδελυκτὸν ἦν ὑμῖν. ἐπὶ τοῖς παραπτώμασιν τοῖς πλησίον ἐπενθεῖτε· τὰ ὑστερήματα αὐτῶν ἴδια ἐκρίνετε.

Every faction and every schism was abominable to you. You mourn for the transgressions [of your] neighbors. You judged their shortcomings your own.

What a profound difference that little word ἴδια (your own) makes. Our natural inclination—I use “our” as an extrapolation from my own inclination—is to omit that word: “you judged their shortcomings.”

Instead, Clement praises them for considering/judging their neighbors’ shortcomings as their own. Rather than distancing themselves from those who transgress, Clement’s audience grieves over their transgressions and places the impetus for forward progress squarely on their own shoulders.

My intent is not to eliminate the Christian’s ability to identify sin as sin. But my question is, how often is our first response a move inward rather than outward. That is to say, how often do we sit in judgment on those who transgress and fall short rather than reaching outward to those who transgress, recognizing that it is the responsibility of every believer to build up one another.

 

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