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The Scriptorium

No Friends of Sin

Grace and hope in words of judgment and warning.

Letter Against the Soldiers of Coroticus (6)

Who among the holy would not be horrified at the thought of making merry or enjoying festivity in the company of the likes of them? They have filled their houses with what has been robbed from dead Christians; they live by plunder. The wretched creatures do not realize what they do, offering deadly poison as food to their children and their friends, just as Eve did not understand that she too was offering death to her husband.

So it is with all who commit evil: they bring on themselves the perpetual punishment of death.

Translation Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World

Patrick is not merely expressing indignation here. He knows that the power of excommunication – which he hopes will bring the soldiers of Coroticus to their senses – depends on the people of God fulfilling their part in refusing to have any converse with those who are under the ban. Rather than fellowship with this bloody band, as they make their way back to their native country, the people of God must completely isolate them. Any fellowship they might share with them would be a fellowship of evil, and believers are not to be friendly with sin, but to hate it (Ps. 97.10).

But we detect a note of grace, perhaps even hope, in Patrick’s words: The soldiers of Coroticus were only following orders, doing what soldiers in a foreign land do. They did not understand the gravity of their crimes and they do not realize the dire consequences of divine judgment that will flow from them. Patrick doesn’t want to punish the soldiers of Coroticus; he wants to enlighten them, and, in order for this to happen, the people of God along the route of their return need to help them to see the magnitude of their sin by refusing to support or share with them in any way. If the soldiers of Coroticus need an explanation for their lack of hospitality, the people can show them this letter from their bishop.

Grace sometimes works in strange ways. By being “ungracious” to the soldiers of Coroticus, the people reading Patrick’s letter may possibly be the means by which grace will break through to some of them, bringing understanding of the horrors they have committed and, perhaps, repentance unto life.

Want to learn more about Patrick and the impact of his ministry? Order T. M.’s book, The Legacy of Patrick, from our online store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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