Saturday, March 02, 2013

Ignatius to the Magnesians - Too Familiar

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

There was a time when those from Jesus' home town, who knew him, his father, his mother, and his brothers and sisters, were offended at him for the power he displayed.
" 'Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?' And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." ' (Matthew 13:55-57)
The church at Manganese was having a similar problem in regards to their youthful bishop.
"Now it becomes you also not to treat your bishop too familiarly on account of his youth, but to yield him all reverence, having respect to the power of God the Father, as I have known even holy presbyters do, not judging rashly, from the manifest youthful appearance [of their bishop], but as being themselves prudent in God, submitting to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of us all." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 3)
It can be difficult when someone we know well is promoted by God to a position of greater power and/or authority. Our familiarity with them can hinder us from showing them the due respect and reverence that is commiserate with their new authority and/or power. While many of us can put on a good front and fool those around us with feigned reverence, God still sees our heart.
"It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey [your bishop], in honour of Him who has willed us [so to do], since he that does not so deceives not [by such conduct] the bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible. And all such conduct has reference not to man, but to God, who knows all secrets." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 3)
The secret to overcoming the trappings of familiarity  is found in Ignatius' exhortation in a previous chapter, "I pray for a union both of the flesh and spirit of Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 1) The key is to learn to see people according to the spirit and not the flesh. This is what Paul meant when he said,
"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
There was a time when we knew Jesus according to the flesh. He was the baby that was born in Bethlehem. He was the son of Mary and Joseph. He was the man that grew up among the Jews and was know by His kinsmen. However, now we know Him according to the Spirit. He is the risen savior. He is the Son of God. He is the eternal Lord, God, and Savior. In the same way, familiarity with each other is based on knowing each other according to the flesh; we know them and their family, we know who they used to be, we know both the good and bad they have done. However, we now need to see each other according to the Spirit. We need to see them as new creatures in Christ, as those who have been born again, as those who now posses the Spirit of God. Someone once said that familiarity breads contempt. The key to overcoming the contempt of familiarity is to learn to recognize people according to the spirit and not the flesh.

David Robison

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