Saturday, January 2, 2016

Francis of Assisi’s Wake-up Call to Biblical Christianity

“BLESSED is the servant who does not regard himself as better when he is esteemed and extolled by men than when he is reputed as mean, simple, and despicable.”
Francis of Assisi (1181—1226) died at a young age by today’s standards, yet he achieved much as action-oriented minister of the Lord, who inadvertently founded the Franciscan order.  A man of conviction, and a man clearly of not much pride, these words of his are a kick in the pants.  How many of us can keep our heads when we’re praised, yet don’t despise the event of people despising us?  Yet this is the quality of the blessed — that precious spiritual state of the purveyor of the Beatitudes.  Evenness of temperament is indeed a great blessing of character.  To take no account of what truth there may be in being praised or the lies expressed in being humiliated, that there is the greatness of being even tempered.  It’s something to nurture and cherish.
“WOE to that religious person who is elevated in dignity by others, and who of his own will is not ready to descend.  And blessed is that servant who is raised in dignity not by his own will and who always desires to be beneath the feet of others.”
How pride precedes the fall.  And how sad is it when we’re riding high on the praise of others, and yet a turn of events takes us into sullenness when that praise turns quiet.  It’s hard.  It’s hard work when we realise that others’ praise was so valued we ran on it as if premium high-octane fuel that was pumped out free of charge.  Oh Lord, this is such a hard word for my prideful spirit.  But it is oh so good that a word like this speaks into the propensity to ‘raise dignity’ rather than fall ‘beneath the feet’.  Thinking of the Lord, who “emptied himself,” and “humbled himself,” and “considered himself nothing,” and “died even on a cross,” we have humility’s example ever and always before us. (Philippians 2:5-11)
“BLESSED is the religious person who feels no pleasure or joy save in most holy conversation and the works of the Lord, and who by these means leads men to the love of God in joy and gladness.  And woe to that religious person who takes delight in idle and vain words, and by this means provokes men to laughter.”
Imagine company that is immediately and cogently sacrosanct.  I met a young man I mentor recently and he vocalised this very thing — “Why don’t we speak more about the things of God after church.”  I couldn’t help but agree.  But I also need to lead from the front, though I find many conversations I enter I’m most often led.  I recognise this is an opportunity of tact, conversational skill, and obviously passion.  We speak most about the things we love most.
“BLESSED is that servant who does not speak through hope and reward, and who does not manifest everything and is not ‘hasty to speak,’ but who wisely foresees what he ought to say and answer.  Woe to that religious person who, not concealing in his heart the good things which the Lord has disclosed to him, and not manifesting them to others by his work, seeks rather through hope of reward to make them known to men by words — for now he receives his reward and his hearers bear away little fruit.”
How we short-change ourselves with monotonous regularity.  We lack the faith so often to leave the rewards with the Lord.  But in being hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) we’re commended for keeping hidden what was always meant to stay in our prayer closet.  We’re blessed when we keep holy secrets.  We’re blessed when we’re quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to anger.  Those holy secrets were purposed always for holy contemplation, for holy consideration, and for holy commendation into others’ lives.
I have fully quoted the short article of Francis’s in the fervent hope that these admonitions would fall upon my very being and make a difference in me and make me wise.  It is not God’s fault how far I fall short.
Biblical Christianity is not about theology or ethics or evangelism or anything else as much as it’s a lifestyle of following Jesus.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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