Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Obedience 2


The old men used to say, "If someone has faith in another and hands himself over to him in complete submission, he does not need to pay attention to God's commandments but he can entrust his whole will to his father. He will suffer no reproach from God, for God looks for nothing from beginners so much as renunciation through obedience."

Some thoughts:

Gotta be honest here. This particular saying makes me cringe a little. I knew people who went to Jonestown and in complete obedience committed suicide there. If Jonestown took place too long ago for people to remember, do you remember David Koresh's version of the Branch Davidian which ended in a gun battle between his followers, the ATF and the FBI? Then there was the Hale-Bopp Comet's influence on the Heaven's Gate Cult, right here in San Diego where I live. But like bits of the Bible that also make me cringe, it's in the Sayings and so I have to deal with it.

Blind obedience may well lead to disaster. I imagine that it was blind obedience that leads to these destructive horrible cults. Informed obedience is a different matter. I cannot begin to imagine what motivated David Koresh and Heaven's Gate. I do know, though, what motivated my friends to follow Bob Jones to Guyana. They wanted to lose their connection to the world. They would live in but not be of it. And like the Desert Christians, they went to a wilderness area where they were going to live perfect Christian live sin perfect Christian community, safe from all dabgers of this world, safe from temptation. A Christian utopia, in fact.

Informed obedience is something very different. And that I believe is what this Saying is about. First of all, this is a Saying for beginners in the desert life. Imagine what it is like to live in Scetis or Nitria in the Egyptian desert. Hot. Water and food none too plentiful, praying the Psalms day in and day out. Could you do this without a guide? I couldn't. If I were going to undertake such a life I would certainly seek out direction.

Was this trust abused? Of course it was. Those that were involved were but human, after all, so we can be sure sin reared its ugly head. Does this kind of absolute power of direction make us queasy? Of course it does. But can we get past all the ick factors and challenge ourselves with the idea that maybe we owe God this sort of obedience and how do we go about learning to give it to Him?


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