Saturday, March 08, 2014

Ammusments and Associates - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"And let not men, therefore, spend their time in barbers’ shops and taverns, babbling nonsense; and let them give up hunting for the women who sit near, and ceaselessly talking slander against many to raise a laugh. The game of dice is to be prohibited, and the pursuit of gain, especially by dicing, which many keenly follow. Such things the prodigality of luxury invents for the idle. For the cause is idleness, and a love for frivolities apart from the truth. For it is not possible otherwise to obtain enjoyment without injury; and each man’s preference of a mode of life is a counterpart of his disposition." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement warns men of the disposition of life they choose for themselves, for the disposition they choose will determine their mode of life. Those who choose well will find a good manor of life but those who choose foolishly choose a course leading to their injury.

There are entire industries created to cater to the idle; bars, whorehouses, gambling halls, and, in Clement's day, barber shops. It is to these businesses that the unwitting come to spend their idle money and await the injury that will eventually be theirs. Idleness is not a man's friend and the amusements and entertainments of idleness do not lead towards God nor to a good life.
"But, as appears, only intercourse with good men benefits; on the other hand, the allwise Instructor, by the mouth of Moses, recognising companionship with bad men as swinish, forbade the ancient people to partake of swine; to point out that those who call on God ought not to mingle with unclean men, who, like swine, delight in corporeal pleasures, in impure food, and in itching with filthy pruriency after the mischievous delights of lewdness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
It is interesting to note how Clement understands God's laws of clean and unclean animals. He applies them to the type of people we should be and associate with. In this case,we should avoid "swinish" people who are given over to pleasure and filthiness of life. Little needs to be said of Paul's exhortation, "Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33) The people we hang around will be the people we become, for good or for evil. Hanging around those who take no care or notice for God will, in time, drag us away from God and from our disciplined lifestyle. However, hanging around Godly people will strengthen our faith and the discipline and temperance of our lives.
"With whom, then, are we to associate? With the righteous, He says again, speaking figuratively; for everything 'which parts the hoof and chews the cud is clean.' For the parting of the hoof indicates the equilibrium of righteousness, and ruminating points to the proper food of righteousness, the word, which enters from without, like food, by instruction, but is recalled from the mind, as from the stomach, to rational recollection. And the spiritual man, having the word in his mouth, ruminates the spiritual food; and righteousness parts the hoof rightly, because it sanctifies us in this life, and sends us on our way to the world to come." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
We need Godly companionship. We need to walk and talk with people who are more mature than us in the faith. We need the wisdom of those who have walked longer with their Lord than we have. And we need to imitate the examples of Godly people. Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV) However, to imitate someone requires us to know them and to know them requires relationship. Godly relationships are essential to our growth in God. It is for this reason, after all, that Jesus left behind His church."And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

David Robison

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