READ: Titus 3:1,2
Paul writes to Titus, “Remind the people to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people but to be peaceable and gentle, and always polite to people of all kinds.” – Titus 3:1,2
Saint Benedict in his classic book on the monastic life repeatedly cautioned the Brothers and Sisters to “never grumble.” In fact, Benedict called “grumbling” the most common and insidious sins in the monastic life. And that was some 16 centuries ago. People grumbling. When you read the Old Testament, you find Moses struggling with the grumblers and complainers as he tried to lead the people to the Promised Land. And what did God do with those grumblers … God kept them from ever entering the Promised Land. And that was some 33 centuries ago. And today … well, grumbling is still too much a part of us.
Even in monasteries such as Greyfriars’ Abbey, grumbling can be heard. But, at least, in the community of Greyfriars’, grumbling and coincidental disrespect and disobedience is still considered sinful and certainly not in the spirit of Christ. But when I note the many political statements that come rolling in on Facebook from souls and sources that are claiming to be in Christ, I worry that many have made disrespect for authority, slander and rudeness somehow Christian virtues. And if I read my Bible correctly … disrespect for authority, slander and rudeness are NOT to be a part of the Christian witness. I fear our politics – whatever our political perspective might be, conservative or progressive – has too often become the master of our souls, defining who we are and dictating the spirit of our witness. Oh, we like to dress our politics in the garb and rationale of our faith, but if our political convictions diminish our Christian Love, then our convictions are not purely of Christ.
Why do we grumble? Because it feels so good. Grumbling helps us to release frustrations and fears, and gives us a momentary rush of righteous power. We grumble because we feel threatened; we grumble because we feel helpless; we grumble because … down deep … we want to feel part of a crusade.
An ancient monk once wrote, “Grumbling is caused by splinters that have dug into the soul. And the more the splinter festers, the more anguished becomes the grumbling.” But instead of dealing with our own splinters, we too often settle for cursing and casting stones at others. And, I admit, it can feel good for a time, but the infection grows.
Paul and Titus were struggling with Roman authorities, the heavy persecution of Christians by Caesar. Christians were being martyred by Roman soldiers. Yet, Paul counsels Titus, “Remind the people to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people but to be peaceable and gentle, and always polite to people of all kinds.” Surely, Saint Paul was NOT in agreement with many of the policies of Rome and Caesar! Yet, we in Christ were not to allow our concerns with Caesar to corrupt the quality of our spirit and witness.
Within Greyfriars’ Abbey are a number of Brothers from other lands. One Brother, Brother Leo, was once a political prisoner in China for nearly twenty-one years. He still bears on his body the scars of their whips and chains. Yet, somehow … by God’s amazing and healing grace and Brother Leo’s heartfelt and serious devotion to Christ … those whips and chains never scarred his spirit of Christian love. One day while Brother Leo was reading our local morning newspaper, he remarked, “Why are Americans so bitter?” I and other Brothers took his concerned observation to heart. More than once we have shared about that question Brother Leo raised, “Why have so many become so bitter? Have we allowed the spirit of this world … to embitter our souls?”
A vital and beautiful aspect of the Benedictine approach to Christian discipleship is that … we actually and conscientiously take the time … to lovingly, patiently and tenderly … help remove the splinters from our own souls rather than sending more splinters into the world.
Brother Anthony of the Cross