When a man begins repentance, his heart is tender, contrite, and humble. He is ready to follow God’s commandments, obey Church teachings, and begin a new life in Christ. The problem is he is not yet fully healed, and still has elevated pride that is automatic for those who grew up in the West. Very soon, he may begin to make exemptions for himself concerning various sins or practices that he rationalizes as “small,” “temporary,” or serving the “greater good.” Satan’s foot is back in the door and will use his desire for exemptions to launch a strong attack that steals away the seed of new faith.
In Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the character Raskolnikov believes he is superior to his fellow man—so superior that he should have the right to kill someone if that person poses an obstacle to him.
“I simply hinted that an extraordinary man has the right… that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep… certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity).”
There is, if you recollect, a suggestion that there are certain persons who can… that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and that the law is not for them.
Raskolnikov goes on to murder someone he thought was a detriment to mankind, and in the process of that murder he ended up killing a second person who happened upon the scene. By usurping the mantle of God, Raskolnikov thought that his intellectual powers gave him the ability to dispense with a perceived miscreant and scourge to society, but very soon he is overcome by a crushing guilt that he cannot silence.
Before my repentance, when I was living in Catholic Poland, I adhered to the concept of “cultural Christianity,” meaning that I saw the overall good that Christianity was doing to those who practiced the faith, but believed it was an “opiate for the masses,” a tool for merely average men and women who needed external rules to have peace in life instead of ravenously following their worldly desires and carnal passions. Since I thought I was an exalted man, bestowed with innumerable gifts, including intellectual, I was not required to follow Christian morality and could instead live without any limits to my behavior or actions. My feelings and will were supreme, just like Raskolnikov, and I created wholesale exemptions for myself to God’s law even though I saw moral benefit in it for mankind. I did not murder anyone physically, but by teaching sin so vigorously through my books and videos, I was an attempted murderer of the souls of men who used them to fornicate, and I aided in the corruption of women who had relations with me and the men who followed me. What peace did I have in this time? What calm entered my soul? I was a dopamine junkie, a slave to bodily pleasure, prone to anger, unstable in emotion, reeking of disgusting pride, and deluded into thinking that I could operate my mind and body in a way that was not intended by God. It took a family death to wake me up from my demonic delusion.
It’s common to meet unmarried Christian men who are in sexual relationships with women. They justify it by saying that they are “monogamous” and “will get married eventually,” but will such self-justification suffice upon Judgment Day? God’s law is clearly against fornication, adultery, and harlotry. No man is given a divine imperative to exempt himself. Do you really believe that God is pleased that you’re fornicating with “only” one woman at a time? From what I learned in the Orthodox Church, such a man must stop fornicating until he gets married within the Church.
Even after I was received into the Church, I still made an exemption for myself that I can be the star of a popular live stream, one that spiked my adrenaline and led to numerous sins stemming from pride. It took me months to follow the basic Church teaching of halting that which causes you to sin.
True repentance is a change of the heart, and the change of evil ways into good ways. True repentance invariably creates shame and regret in the heart of the penitent, that he had acted so shamelessly and insubordinately toward God. There can be no true repentance when a man does not want to cease from sins and show obedience toward God. There is a delusional and false repentance, and therefore it is of no benefit to the penitent. For repentance and willful sinning are contrary things, and cannot exist together. —Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk in On True Christianity Vol. 1
God did not exempt me. I’m not exalted above others. I’m not a special boy. Without God, my natural gifts are more likely to be harnessed for evil than good. The morality we get from God is objective, clear, and for our eternal benefit; it’s our fallen weakness to shade it gray and think that God really wants us to transgress His law because we are somehow above it. Believing you can commit any type of sin to do a “favor” for God is delusion, and unfortunately, I am infected with it. What the Church teaches, I must abide, and if I ever get the notion that I don’t have to abide, I must conclude that a demon is whispering in my ear, and a damaging spiritual fall is near.
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