Who is guilty for our sins?

Starets Ephrem Philoteios

The devil has been sinning from the very beginning and till the end of the world he is going to sin. And how does he do it? He fights to make the man reject God and be on his side to have him doomed with himself in hell. He, from the first angel as he was became the most sinful of the beings created by God. No matter how much would sin the man, he never equals the tempter with the wrongdoings he committed. The devil as a demonic spirit moves all over the world. He is always on the move and most cunning. He works tirelessly, without schedule and breaks. He has a demonic joy when he works against the salvation of man. He wants to have us with him in hell, which is made for him and he sets traps to catch enough people for the everlasting fire.

If it happens to hear – and may God does not allow you to hear that – his voice, it is terrible. What he says against God would frighten the man if he heard it.

All the efforts he is making is to stand against God, to blaspheme Him and throw all the men in hell. He brings ceaceless blasphemies and rebellions against God. However if he ever repented, although he had lost millions of souls, God would forgive him and give him again the first place he used to have – imagine the boundless divine love and mercy .

The devil is always throwing a bait and we let ourselves be deluded and caught in the trap. We must have the eyes widely open, take care and run in the moment of temptation, for avoiding traps. If Eve had done this, the first created and we, their offsprings would not have suffered. The sin has always destructive consequences. Eve would have never imagined that exactly her fall was to bring God on earth. She would have never imagined that her mistake was to open the gates of hell.

Hearing about the attempts and traps of the devil, we are ready to throw all our guilt on the devil and say that he is guilty for everyhthing. But is it really so? Who is guilty for our sin? The devil or us? Surely the devil is guilty in his way and we must not forget about his presence. The demonic element exists in our daily life in every moment. We should not underestimate him at all, cause he has a big power indeed, but which is of course impuissant before God. As apostle Peter says:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [1].

We do not like to speak about the devil. But it is necessary to take heed at his plans and tricks. Cunning against cunning. Since he fights cunningly against us, we shall answer cunningly. The first thing an army must know is how is its enemy, who he is, what are his abilities and the means he has.

Here arises the question – as long as the devil concocts our loss and damnation, why the Almighty God does not destroy him  so that we would not be tempted again? Here is an important question: is the devil guilty for everything wrong we commit? This bold question is asked by saint John Chrysostom and he continues:

If it were so why Job who was so much tempted by the devil did not bend? Someone might say: Yes, Job did not bend but Adam did it. The things show us that one defeats the devil and a hundred are defeated by him. And we answer: Since a few men or even a single one succeeds to defeat the devil then this is possible for all. The enemy is not invincible. Besides those few are worthier than many. According to the word of God: Better is one who does the will of God than thousands who commit misdeeds. Virtue is not measured by numbers. A few righteous men are much more precious than billions of crooks. The apostles were only twelve, small dough, small leaven however they leavened all the leaven of the world. These twelve changed the world, made the greatest revolution of all.

The devil is the causer of all sin. He inspires the evil. The cause of our sin is our evil intention, our laziness and indifference. Cause the devil is the enemy. But without enemy the value of the fighter cannot be proved. We have, according to what saint John Chrysostom says, two fighters and an adversary. One of the fighters instead of preparing for fight dedicates his time to eating and drinking, to partying and loses completely his power to fight, he gets drowsy. The other one prepares himself and is ready for the fight

Now if you take the enemy from the middle and make him disappear who is that one from the other two who will be not entitled? It is certain that is the unprepared. He will lose the opportunity to fight and win the crown and prize. Do you understand? The devil is our enemy. If he disappears there will be no more fight. Then there would not be any winners and prizes. This is the answer.

The devil is useful. It sounds strange. However saint John Chrysostom proves this. There are snakes called vipers and they are poisonous. From the poison of these snakes as you know they make certain medicine. It is the same with the devil. He is a snake, a viper but if you know how to stand against him, he becomes useful for our spiritual life.

A monk learnt to pray fervently. They asked him: How did you learn the prayer and reach the mental prayer? How did you come to experiencing grace?

The devil was my teacher, that man answered. Strange. Wasn’t it Christ? No, the devil. He fought to throw me into sin and I stood against him and striving I learnt the prayer which is one of the charisms of the Holy Spirit.

The devil is like an executioner. The executioner hits the sentenced with the number of blows the judge allows him to give not with the number of blows he would like to give. It is the same with the devil. He hits us but not as much as he would like, with the evilness springing from his self against us. He hits us as much as God allows him to do it, of course if we belong to God. Otherwise he hits us mercilessly because we with our won recklessness and faithlessness and with our lack of repentance surrendered to him. Our own lack of care not the devil is the cause of our sins.

The devil serves this. If we do not consent to taste what it is served, we will not suffer any wrong. The devil challenges by temptation, by attraction. If we do not open our ears and do as the fellow men of Ulysses when the passed by the island of mermaids we will not taste pleasure. The devil sets traps. If we do not allow ourselves be drawn and will keep our eyes wide open we will not be crushed. As  saint John Chrysostom says, we are the cause of committing sins. Because we do not take heed and let ourselves be drawn by the devil.

[1] 1 Peter 5, 8.

Excerpt from the book „The Art of Salvation”,  to be published by Evanghelismos Publishing.