Be on Your Guard!


There is no getting around it. We sin. Paul even recognized this when he bemoaned the fact that he kept doing the things he knew he ought not do. Even as great a saint as Paul was not sinless, could not be, because he was human like all of us. Jesus knew that it would be difficult for us too.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard!” Luke 17:1-4

Without the knowledge of God’s love, and without his grace, we are too weak to defend ourselves from the inevitable temptations of sin. Even though we may know God, we can still, in the heat of a single moment, bend to the immediate gratifications of some sin, small, or even great, and we can, though it may not have been our desire, cause one of God’s little ones to go astray. For this we deserve all the woe that comes our way. But there is another message here in this passage too.

Jesus goes on to say, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.'”

Now, this all might seem contradictory, but God cannot contradict himself. There is something deeper here that unites both of these ideas. Yes, we sin. Yes, when we sin, we sometimes lead the innocent astray, and for this we are in danger of eternal suffering; that is, if we do not see our error for what it is and for what it has done, and repent it with all of our heart and soul. But if we do repent with sincerity and sorrow, we know that God will forgive us—every time. And here is where the connection is made. We must do the same for each other. No matter how often our brother or sister sins against us, if they return to us and ask our forgiveness, we must give it—every time. Jesus does not ask us to do anything he would not do himself.

Sin inevitably will try to worm its way into our lives. Sin is of the Enemy, the one who is at war with God. It is the Enemy’s desire to take us away from God and his eternal love. This is why Jesus tells us to, “Be on your guard!” But he is also telling us that we defeat the Enemy’s desires, both when we repent from our own sins, no matter the penance we must also inevitably pay, and when we release our brothers and sisters from their guilts by forgiving them.

God is love as the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:7ff. There is no force greater in Heaven or on earth. Let us, then, turn our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our souls to the One Who Is Love, both in the depths of our sins, and in the heights of our forgiving love for our brothers and sisters.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.
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