Son, have you sinned? You should not add further sins
Keraza Magazine issue 21-22 May 23, 2014
The human conscience sets many barriers to sin. The size and strength of these barriers varies depending on one’s conscience-based sensitivity towards each type of sin. The lower one’s sensitivity towards a specific sin, the more it becomes a doorkeeper’s befriended sin that enters and exits without monitoring or prohibition whenever it pleases. The higher one’s sensitivity towards a specific sin, the more the enemy concentrates all his efforts to puncture an aperture by which to breach that barrier. Thus, the enemy works from both right and left sides that he may, by all means, capture one.
All sins connected with self-love are examples of doorkeeper’s befriended sins that do not set off the alarms. Bodily sins, on the other hand, are most detectable by the human conscience radar, announcing emergency conditions.
Many are mistaken in assuming that sin is just falling. Truth is: inside the fall is a fall then another fall, like the evening shadow which gradually progress from one watch of the night to the next one, from dark to intensely dark, meaning that, sin is like an endless spiral. Once the barriers of the conscience are breached and the person falls, he then assumes to have fallen victim to the knockout, and that the enemy will surely go away and leave him in his calamity as he has reached his goal by putting him to death. Yet, this also is one of the enemy’s battle tactics. As far as the enemy is concerned, the war has no rules, there are no rights to the captives, and all punishment and torture to the corpses are permitted. He does not admit pity on a dead corpse; rather his motto is, "If he dies don’t stop; but continue hitting him lest a leg stands up".
Almost no one of the fall stories in the Holy Bibles and biographies of penitent saints misses such a war tactic by the enemy. Perhaps the most prominent example in the Holy Bible is the scenario of the prophet David’s fall, who gradually slid from one slip to another, beginning with the doorkeeper’s befriended sin, which was laxity in the time of war by walking on the roof, and climaxing at murder with intent, passing along the way by adultery and deception of Uriah the Hittite. As for the most prominent example in the saints' biographies, the biography of St. James the Repentant is the one that shows this spiral of fall. His doorkeeper's friend sin was laxity in permitting the woman possessed by the unclean spirit to stay in his cell in order to pray for her to cast out the demon from her forever. Unfortunately, it ended up with him at murder of the woman with intent to cover up his fall in sexual immorality with her.
Realizing this downward spiraling effect of falling into sin, the son of Sirach offers us his valuable advice: "Son, have you sinned? You should not add further sins. Then too, for your former sins, pray so that they may be forgiven you" (Sirach 21:1). He alerts us not to accept and believe the deception of the enemy who tells us, "Could you fall any further!" Actually, there is much further. If the first time to sin is the hardest, the second time is the most dangerous because it declares a person’s hopelessness and surrender to the accusation the enemy stamps overhead: "This is the prime sinner of sinners!" In this manner, the second time leads to the third, the forth, etc. This process is endless and at the end one finds himself like a car driver who suddenly loses control over its breaks and steering wheel.
In business, there is a principle to keep losses at a minimum. If you lose 10%, do not make it 20%, then 30%, and 40%. Surely losing 40% is much greater than losing 10%. The same applies in war, if you lose one of your organs in the battle, you should not add further and lose all your life. Surely losing one organ is much better than losing all your body. Likewise, "Have you sinned? You should not add further sins" but cling to the hope of salvation, rise up, and go to God your Father, who is the true Physician, who alone can stop the bleeding of sin in your life, and snatch you from the abyss of hell.
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States