Monks Amok

Once upon a Medieval time, charity and Christian work were left to the clergy, monks and nuns. There was a distinct line between Christian work and secular work, and one rarely crossed the line to participate in the other. 

Luther and other reformers believed this to be a significant problem with the monastic life because it limited the Church. While there are many other more famous and more quotable doctrines that were revitalized in the reformation, such as Luther’s five “Solas,” the greatest doctrine to come out of the reformation was the doctrine of vocation. Contrary to popular belief in the modern Church, this doesn’t mean that there should be no monks, but rather that we are all monks, called by God to do his work in our corner of the world according to our own vocations. Our monastery is the world, our abbot is Christ, and our brothers are the people around us.

The monks were onto something with their lifestyle: not seclusion, but rather peaceful living. Prayer, education, work, service to others, devotion to charity and Christian giving. Unfortunately, this ideal Christian lifestyle has either been lost entirely or exchanged for a whittled down list of dos and don’ts that leave Christians bitter about God’s demand on their time. Most Christians don’t live a particularly moral Christian life, and those who do often do it reluctantly. No wonder our reputation is tainted and our witness damaged. We cannot expect anyone to respect nor accept Christian values if we ourselves do not respect or accept them.

We’ve spent so much time trying to make disciples that we’ve forgotten we are disciples.

It’s time to disrupt the status quo. It’s time to decide whether what we believe is worth our lives, because if it is, we should start living that way. It’s time to live with peace, walk with grace, and serve with love.

The Christian life is a topic that has troubled theologians and Christian writers for ages. If you emphasize works too much, you will be accused of preaching works righteousness. If you emphasize grace too much, you will be guilty of preaching cheap grace. The topic of the Christian life is uncomfortable for two main reasons.

            The first is that it’s a paradox, and humans are notoriously bad at understanding paradoxes. But the Christian life and faith are chalk full of paradoxes. We are both saved and sinner. We are both new creation and an Old Adam. We owe God everything and yet we owe him nothing. Christ demands nothing of us and yet he demands our whole life and obedience. Grace itself is a paradox because we are undeserving of it: we are guilty yet forgiven. The Christian life is a paradox. It always exists as two sides of the same coin, and yet as limited humans we can only see one side at a time. That’s why Christians are so wary of discussing the concept of discipleship and obeying Jesus’ commands. If you spend too much time looking at one side of the coin, it quickly turns to heresy. It is a difficult path to walk, the paradox. But if we are to be disciples of Christ, we must try.

            The second reason the topic is so uncomfortable is because I think we’re terrified of the idea that Christ actually has expectations of us and high standards. G.K. Chesterton summarized this fear when he said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” If we’re honest with ourselves, I think our fear as Christians is not so much that we won’t matter in the great scheme of things. Rather, I think our fear is that we are the most important piece of God’s puzzle. We talk about being tools of God in happy, sentimental ways, and we pray that God uses us. But as soon as God actually requires something of us, we shake our fists and ask why he would challenge us so.

            We’ve come to believe God is so powerful that he doesn’t need humans to complete his plan for the world. We underestimate God. Rather, He is so powerful that he can and does use broken humans to complete his plan for the world.

            This being the case, we need to figure out exactly what our place in God’s plan as his disciples is. The good news is that this is not a mystery. We do not need to wait around for a personal divine revelation. God has given us every bit of information we could ever dream of needing in his Word and his example.

            Again and again I have been struck by just how apathetic the modern Church is. If Christ really is worth our life, then it’s time to rethink the Christian life and what it means to live out our many earthly vocations in a Godly manner. Most importantly, it’s time we live out our vocation as disciples of Christ. We have been called by the creator of the universe to live differently, to serve our neighbor, and to make disciples. Staying true to that calling is not an easy road and never will be, but the world is going dark and more than ever we are needed as Christ’s chosen people to shine our light.

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