YOUR SINS ARE MY SINS.
St. Nikolai Velimirovic Bishop of Ochrid and Zhicha
Love the sinner as well! Do not fly away from the sinners, but go to them without fear. After all—whoever you may be—you are not much better than they are. Try to love the sinners; you will see that it is easier to love those whom you despise than those whom you envy. The old Zosim (from the “Brothers Caramazov”) said, “Brothers, don’t be afraid of the sins of a sinner; but love a sinner also—that is the record of love upon earth.” I know you love St. Peter and St. John, but could you love the sinner Zacchæeus? You can love the good Samaritan but love, please, the prodigal son also! You love Christ, I am sure; but what about Judas, the seller of Christ? He repented, poor human creature. Why don’t you love him? Dostojevsky—like Tolstoi and Gogol—emphasised two things: first, there is no great man; secondly, there is no worthless man. He described the blackest crimes and the deepest fall and showed that the authors of such crimes are men just as other men, with much good hidden under their sins. Servants and vagabonds, idiots and drunkards, the dirty katorzniki from the Serbian prisons—all those people are God’s sons and daughters, with souls full of fears and hopes, of repentance and longings after good and justice.
Between saintliness and vice there is a bridge, not an abyss. The saintliest and the meanest men have still common ground for brotherhood. Your sins are my sins, my sins are your sins. That is the starting-point for a practical and lucid Christianity. I cannot be clean as long as you are not clean. I cannot be happy as long as you are unhappy. I cannot enter Heaven as long as you are in Hell. What does that mean? It means that you and I are blended together for eternity, and that your effort to separate yourselves from me is disastrous for you and for me. As long as you look to the greatest sinner in the world and say: “God, I thank thee that I am not as that man,” you are far from Christ and the Kingdom of God. God wants not one good man only, He wants a Kingdom of good men. If ninety-nine of us are good and saintly but one of our brothers is far from our solace and support, in sin and darkness, be sure God is not among us ninety-nine, but He has gone to find our brother whom we have lost and forgotten. Will you follow him or will you stand self-sufficient? Never has there existed in the world such a social power binding man to man and commanding each to take and bear the other’s sorrows as Christianity did. Your sins are my sins, my sins are your sins. Such a conception of the Christian religion had Tolstoi in common with Dostojevsky and Gogol, with the Holy Synod, with the popular religious conscience of millions and millions of the living and the dead, in the orthodox world, and with all the jurodivi, the fools for Christ’s sake.