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February 09, 2018

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Andrew Klager

Thanks, Eric — I've seen your piece on Clarion and will read it when I can spare a few minutes, but I look forward to it!

Eric H Janzen

Thank you for your comment, Andrew. I am trying to write a short article to expand on my comment, which should answer some of your questions (hopefully). However, as to whether it would be an 'evangelical' view or not, I have no idea. These days I'm not sure what I would self-identify as other than, Eric:loves and wants to know Jesus more. I am a bit of a nomad at the moment, which raises some interesting thoughts that have nothing to do with the topic at hand...but, what does a anabaptist, charismatic, contemplative, orthodox reading Christian label themselves as these days? Other than homeless? (he said with a smile).

Andrew Klager

Thanks for these thoughts, Eric — Maybe I've been outside the Evangelical world for too long, but can you expand a little more on why you struggled with the ending phrase, "me, a sinner." Brad has obviously encountered this too or else he wouldn't have contacted me about it or wrote this. Do you or other evangelicals (if this is how you self-identify) have a problem with thinking of yourself this way or affirming this about yourself? St. Paul, for example, identified himself as the "chief of sinners," which Orthodox Christians emulate and reaffirm when we also call ourselves the chief of sinners in a prayer we recite immediately before partaking of the Eucharist every Sunday. And the Jesus Prayer is itself a slightly revised rendition of the prayer of the publican in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican — the latter of whom we are called to emulate rather than the former. All this to say, focusing on myself and my own sin rather than that of others is imbedded in the Orthodox DNA (even if I fail at this constantly), and I'd like to know in what way the evangelical mindset and attitude is suspicious of this orientation.

So, if you could shed some more light on what aspect of this you struggle with and why, it would personally be helpful for me to understand the evangelical world and perhaps its general hang-up with this focus and attitude of which I'm now unaware. Thanks!

Eric H Janzen

Even though your conversation is miles ahead of me, I would like to offer my own little thought. Over time, as I have prayed the Jesus Prayer, I struggled from different angles with the ending phrase, but I persisted. What brought me peace about it was when a wise man explained to me that Sin is about alienation. Sin, he said, is that which alienates us from God and from one another. Jesus has ended our alienation from God and given us the grace to overcome our alienation from one another. So, in praying the Jesus Prayer, when we pray, 'have mercy on me, a sinner,' we are confessing our experience of alienation and how we have participated in alienating others. As we receive mercy, we are receiving the transforming Presence, which empowers us by his Spirit and grace to be merciful instead of acting in ways that alienate (our sinning). It brings into focus the necessary experience of true change in the heart where faith, hope, love, compassion, grace, mercy, and many other virtues take the place of the passions which serve only to separate us from our true self, others, and Christ.

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