Tuesday, November 20, 2012

1st Clement 57 - You could stay

 Sometimes, leaving is not an option, or at least, not an acceptable option. There are many reasons why we might choose to stay rather than leave, even if we find ourselves at odds with some of the things the church is doing, even if our own desires and visions are not in sync with that of the church and its leaders. I have also been in this place, where either I knew it was God's will for my family to stay or where I knew that leaving would present a hardship on my family. I know many families that have chosen to stay in such situations because, while they may have been dissatisfied with the church, its decisions, and its direction, their wife and children were not. They judged it better to stay for the sake of their wife and children's needs and spiritual health than to leave for the sake of what they desired.

However, in choosing to stay we are choosing limitations on our own lives and choosing to yield our own ambitions and goals to those of others.
 "Ye therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue." (1 Clement 57)
If we choose to stay, we must be willing to put the needs of others, the needs of the church, before our own needs. We must be willing to submit to the established order within the church and to curb our own pride and our self-confident talk lest we sow the seeds of sedition and schism by our words. This does not mean that we cannot share what God has put in our hearts and the vision he has given us for His church, but we must away be careful to do it in a way that does not seek to divide the church and we must always be willing to yield to the established order of the church if our thoughts and views are not readily accepted. In all we do, our thought must be for the needs and safety of others.

For some, this can be a difficult pill to swallow, especially when we feel that we are better, or even destined, for a higher place of esteem than is presently offered us. It can be difficult to accept a humble place when, in our pride, we esteem ourselves worthy of something greater. But Clement reminds us,
"For it is better for you that ye should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, ye should be cast out from the hope of His people." (1 Clement 57)
What good is a place of prominence if it is without God's blessing? What good is being exalted if it is accompanied with exile? It is far better to be humble and to have a share in God's church than to be great and an outcast. Clement closes with a stern warning for those who, in spite of the clear testament of the scriptures, persists in forcing their own way and desires out of a heart of pride and arrogance.
"For thus speaketh all-virtuous Wisdom: 'Behold, I will bring forth to you the words of My Spirit, and I will teach you My speech. Since I called, and ye did not hear; I held forth My words, and ye regarded not, but set at naught My counsels, and yielded not at My reproofs; therefore I too will laugh at your destruction ...For they hated wisdom, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; nor would they listen to My counsels, but despised My reproofs. Wherefore they shall eat the fruits of their own way, and they shall be filled with their own ungodliness.' " (1 Clement 57)
Let us learn to be humble and to  "take the lowest place." (Luke 14:10 NIV) Let our exhalation come from God and not by our own means. In doing so, our praise will be from God and not from men.

David Robison

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