Life of humbleness & meekness (27)

14-01-2012 12:11 PM

By Pope Shenouda III

Is it proper for the humble to rebuke and chastise?
When and how?

Is it proper for the humble to rebuke and chastise? 
When and how?
   Revering seniors is a duty in which many train themselves, but when seniors revere juniors this reveals humbleness and nobility on their part.
   God, blessed be His name, is our example of humbleness and conduct. It may not be theologically proper to say that God reveres His servants, but actually He keeps their dignity and lifts them up, giving them respect in the sight of the others, no longer calling them servants, but calling them His friends (Jn 15: 15).
   He never disregards His stewards, as when He said to the leper He had healed, “Go your way, show yourself to the priest.” (Mt 8: 4)
   He even –sometimes- reveals His decisions to some of His servants or stewards before carrying them out!
Before burning Sodom He said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Gen 18: 17) And He permitted Abraham to say to Him, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked!” (Gen 18: 25) He also discussed with him till He said, “I will destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Gen 18: 32)
Again when He wanted to consume the people for worshipping the golden calf, He revealed His intention to Moses, saying, “Let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.” More strange is that He permitted Moses to speak to Him boldly and with familiarity, and to respond to his request when he said, “Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people” (Ex 32: 10- 14)!
In His love for David the Prophet, even after his death, He did not inflict the punishment for Solomon##s big sin in the days of David, but afterwards, saying, “… for the sake of My servant David.” (1 Kgs 11: 12, 13)
The story of the Lost Son is another example of the humbleness of the heavenly Father. In his compassion and care about the dignity of his son, he did not let him complete what he had decided to say, “Make me like one of your hired servants.” He rather honored him for his repentance and commanded that they kill the fatted calf and put a ring on his hand. On the other hand, his elder son refused to rejoice with them and spoke harshly to him, saying, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you … yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots you killed the fatted calf for him.” Yet the father did not get angry, but in humbleness said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (Lk 15: 19- 32)
The humbleness of seniors appears clearly in the biographies and sayings of the fathers. St. Augustine praying for his congregation, says, ##I implore You, O Lord, for my masters, Your servants … to them I am a shepherd, but to You, I am a sheep in Your flock, You shepherd me with them.## Some father bishops in humbleness call themselves servants of their dioceses.
The fathers in the “Paradise of Monks” say ##Let everyone be great in your sight … seek the blessing of everybody, and ask everyone to bless you.##
St. Paul says, “In honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom 12: 10) St. Paul actually honors his children, as we see in his Epistle to Philemon concerning his servant Onesimus, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains … my own heart … whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to my in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing … no longer as a slave, but … a beloved brother, especially to me … If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account … I will repay … refresh my heart in the Lord.” (Phl 10- 20) How decent is this way of talk from a great saint and master to his disciple! Is this not a lesson to us how seniors should honor juniors?! 
In the same way he honors his disciples, praising them and their labor, as in his Epistle to the Romans commending Priscilla and Aquila, saying, “to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” And he sends greetings to everybody by name, mentioning his or her labor in the Lord, to Andronicus and Junia, mentioning that they were in Christ before him, and to Tryphena and Tryphosa who have labored in the Lord, to beloved Persis, to Rufus as chosen in the Lord and his mother as his own mother, to Phoebe the servant of the church in Cenchrea, asking that she be received in a manner worthy of the saints, to Apelles as approved in Christ, and to beloved Epaenetus as firstfuits of Achaia to Christ (Rom 16: 1- 13)
But let us ask, can a humble person rebuke, blame, and punish? 
Yes, for St. Paul rebuked and punished. He rebuked the Galatians, saying to them, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3: 3) And to his disciple Timothy the Bishop he said, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Tim 4: 2) He also punished the sinner of Corinth commanding that he be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord (1Cor 5: 5) Again he commanded them to put away from themselves the evil person (1 Cor 5: 13) He also rebuked St. Peter, saying to him, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (Gal 2: 14) 
This does not means that St. Paul was not humble, for about the appearance of the Lord to him after the resurrection he says, “Last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time, for I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Cor 15: 8, 9)
St. John the Baptist, whose humbleness cannot be denied, likewise rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be baptized by him, saying, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ##We have Abraham as our father.##” (Mt 3: 7, 8)
Elijah the Prophet rebuked King Ahab for following the Baals, and punished the prophets of the Baal and of the Asherah, and punished the first two captains of fifty (2 Kgs 18: 18, 19; 2 Kgs 1: 10, 12).
Jacob the Patriarch rebuked his two sons Simeon and Levi, describing them as instruments of cruelty in whose council his soul cannot enter (Gen 49: 5, 6) Actually so many prophets did rebuke persons and groups, and were even sent by God for this purpose.
The Lord Christ Himself the gentle and lowly in heart rebuked! He rebuked the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. He said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades (Mt 11: 11- 29) He also rebuked the scribes and Pharisees the hypocrites, and rebuked his disciple Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mt 23; 16: 23)  Moreover, He rebuked His disciples James and John when they wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume a city of Samaria, saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men##s lives but to save them.” (Lk 9: 55)     
   So many are the examples, but let us discuss how far can rebuking conform to humbleness?
First – who shall rebuke, and with what authority? Does such a person have the authority of the Lord or of St. John, St, Paul, or St. Timothy? Is rebuking a duty as that of a father toward his child (Heb 12: 7), a teacher toward a disciple, or a boss toward subordinates to prevent negligence? The Paradise of Monks teaches us to chastise the young before they chastise us!
Second – How should the humble rebuke or chastise? Some people may rebuke harshly and cruelly without any respect to the others, supposing this a virtue, and forgetting how St. Paul rebuked for instance the priests of Ephesus, with tears, humbleness and love, not with authority, saying, “For three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20: 31) To the Corinthians he likewise said, “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” (2 Cor 10: 1) It is the way of a person who feels the plank in his own eyes before removing the speck from his brother##s eye, rather than behaving with haughtiness, cruelty, or loud voice and authority.  It is the way of one who seeks to give God His right before asking the others to do.
   I wonder how some see the Lord Christ only holding the whip, and hear Him only saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” as if the whole life of the Lord is confined to this!
   The Lord actually treated them with all gentleness and longsuffering, arguing with them and trying to convince them with all meekness. The woes came only in the last week when He wanted to pave the way to removing away such leadership before His crucifixion so that they might not dominate over the new church which He was going to establish with His own blood. Therefore He exposed their hypocrisy after having suffered them so long. He did the same to the Sadducees, the lawyers, and the priests (Mt 21, 22)
   Are you then in the same situation of Christ? Do you have the same authority? Do you have the same meekness and gentleness, or you rebuke without humbleness?      
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