THE PROBLEM OF ARROGANCE
READ: John 5: 44-47
[After healing a man on the Sabbath, the religious leaders sought to kill Jesus, believing that Jesus was a heretic, not following the teaching of Moses, and equating Himself with God. To these men, Jesus said,] …“How can you believe, since you look to each other for glory and are not concerned with the glory that comes from the one God? Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you. If you really believed Moses you would believe Me too, since it was about Me that Moses was writing. But if you will not believe what Moses wrote, how can you believe what I say?” – John 5:44-47
The other day I said to the Benedictine Brothers of Greyfriars’ Abbey, “I am afraid that I disagree with some of your Benedictine beliefs and practices.” I looked around waiting for some sign of their response or reaction to my rather confrontational statement. Instead all I got were kindly smiles … and then… from the Abbot, these words of grace..“That is the very reason why we so enjoy your presence here, Jim … excuse me, Brother Anthony. You enable us to catch a glimpse of the Truth that we sometimes cannot see.” His words brought forth more smiles of grace from the other monks, eventually led to some gracious chuckling from the group as a whole and then from me. And I felt loved … and I felt respected … and I felt humbled.
This moment clarified for me a certain something about the quality of life I found here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, something I had not always experienced in my forty years of pastoring Churches. It is a matter of matured grace. You see, these Brothers at Greyfriars’ are well-schooled and well-practiced in the Humility that finds its satisfaction not in the approval of other people but in the approval of God. Truly, these Brothers understand what it means to seek the glory of God and not the glory of others, to seek the approval of God and not the approval of others. Since my first steps as a Novice, I have been instructed and guided, but never judged or pressured. They truly believe that we each and all must stand before the Lord and give an accounting for ourselves. So we best be as authentic in our faith as we can be.
Through the years, I have felt pressure from one group or another to bring the teaching of the Lord into line with THEIR already established norms. I have felt the harsh judgement and exerted pressure from church members, both conservative and progressive, both evangelical and liberal, both traditional and contemporary. So often … in ways most graphic and in ways quite subtle, I have heard their threats in both shouts and whispers …”Preacher, you best fall in line with what I believe to be the truth.” Both flag-wavers and protesters have had their bites of me, not so concerned about seeking the truth of God but instead of receiving the endorsement of God. Some have said God is surely a Republican; some have said God is surely a Democrat; but so few have asked God …”Lord, how does Your point of view differ from my own?”
The leaders of the Jerusalem Temple were really turning up the pressure on Jesus, even breathing threats of His demise. Jesus – in their understanding – was way out of line, a heretic, a trouble-maker, going contrary to scripture, going contrary to the accepted belief and practice. Jesus could have tried to please that crowd and sought the glory of their affirmation … but instead … Jesus had the courage of faith to seek rather the glory of God.
My Loved Ones, God loves each and every one of us, but I do suspect that God also, in one way or another, disagrees with each one of us. Sometimes we have it right; sometimes we have it wrong. The humble and wise soul recognizes this and seeks to learn with more and more depth and with more and more breadth, and with more and more clarity the actual truth of God. If God be God, then God knows more than me and more than you.
What is the “glory” of which Jesus speaks? “Glory” is the radiance that shines forth from within. When people are praised, we sometimes say that they beam with pride. Ah, yes, we do love the applause of the crowd. Yes, we can settle for the faint and faded glory of the groups around us … or we can embrace the radiance of the glory of God Almighty shining from above and shining from within.
Throughout the centuries of Christian monastic writings one can find this recurring theme… “We as human souls are most limited by our arrogance.” “We as human souls are most limited by our arrogance.” “We as human souls are most limited by our arrogance.”
“Help me, Lord, come to my assistance.” (a traditional Benedictine prayer)
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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