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by Dennis Downing


“Get rid of every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV

    Perhaps the most seductive categories of sin are these: the attitudes that nobody sees, the judgements we deem justified, and every thought that feeds our insatiable desire to feel superior to others.

    Malice seems to fit all three categories. It very often lies unseen at the bottom of our hearts. The hostility we feel is usually motivated by some perceived injustice for which another is “guilty.” And our malice usually thrives on the mistakes and failings of another.

Our malice usually thrives on the mistakes and failings of another.
    There are those of us who would not dare let our mind’s eye rest on a woman’s nakedness. Yet, we can strip another man bare of every good deed and sincere intention to gloat over his every flaw and weakness. Some can resist a woman’s physical beauty, something forbidden, yet created by God, but surrender to an obsession with a fellow man’s sins and failures, the malicious handiwork of Satan himself.

    Perhaps the only thing harder than forgiving a fellow servant, with all his flaws and weaknesses, is recognizing how much we have already been forgiven by the Master.


A brother ... committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water, and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, “What is this, Father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him. —The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward


Father, forgive us of our particular sins. And, help us to see just how vast is your forgiveness. May we plunge to its depth and rise to its height. May we run with all our might it’s length and breadth until we have exhausted every last ounce of self-righteousness, that only the righteousness of your Son might remain. Then, Father, when we pray, perhaps we will truly pray with pure hearts.


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