I’ve been reading some classic Christian literature. It’s absolutely amazing. The faith these folks practiced is profound. It’s not the hypocritical stuff we’re so used to seeing, and making fun of (e.g. Shit Christians Say). Rather, it has some really great teaching if we can get past our biases.
The following comes from Thomas A Kempis – a Medieval monk. It’s from his work entitled, The Imitation Of Christ. Keep in mind he was a monk so his language is, well, monkish. Nevertheless, let’s take a look and then reinterpret it to see if it helps at all.
Do not be concerned overmuch who is with you or against you, but work and plan that God may be with you in all that you do. Keep a clean conscience, and God will mightily defend you; for whoever enjoys the protection of God cannot be harmed by the malice of man. If you learn to suffer in silence, you may be sure of receiving God’s help. He knows the time and the way to deliver you; so trust yourself entirely to His care. God is strong to help, and to free you from all confusion. It is often good for us that others know and expose our faults, for so may we be kept humble.
I think he’s saying this:
Don’t worry about what others think of you – good or bad. Work with God in all that you do, and pray. Always keep God close. Keep your thoughts pure – get rid of the garbage inside you (greed, lust, envy, anger, sloth, pride, expectations). God will protect you from the wrath of man. In other words, you won’t care what they think of you because God has your back, no matter what. Quietly endure what is (don’t condemn or judge) and you will experience God’s help. He will guide your steps and actions. Trust God entirely. He’s powerful beyond words, and will free you from your confusion. Be happy when others point out your faults, as it’s a great reminder to humbly accept we are far from perfect, and that we can trust in God’s grace.
Even in modern language these words are challenging. They call for a level of humility and faith that few ever experience or practice. As a final reminder (perhaps just in case we forget), he closes with this Jesus-esque line: Do not consider yourself to have made any spiritual progress, unless you account yourself the least of all men.
Being the least is a bit of a learning curve for those of us steeped in a modern culture of desire-fulfillment, independence, instant gratification, and righteous indignation. Many refuse to step out, or even realize it’s an option. In our culture, the words above sound ridiculous. They’re not. They are different though. It’s a mind-set on God.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson