Telemachus

telemachusTelemachus was a monk who lived in a small monastic community near the end of the fourth century. He had a peaceful life of Bible study, prayer, and gardening for the cloister. His peaceful life was interrupted by the sense that God wanted him to move from the country to the distant city of Rome. Telemachus didn’t want to move. He loved his simple life, but he believed it was what God wanted, and so he left.

When he arrived at Rome, he found everything he feared. Political corruption, pleasure gone amuck, wild and godless living abounded. He followed the crowds into the Coliseum.

He was shocked when he saw the gladiators stand and salute the emperor, saying, “We who are about to die salute you!”  It turned his stomach to see crowds watching men slaughter each other for pleasure.

Telemachus had enough. He climbed a wall and shouted out, “In the name of Christ stop this! Stop this now!” but nobody listened. The gore continued.

Finally he jumped down into the arena and approached the gladiators, yelling, “In the name of Christ, stop this! Stop it!” Generally, they ignored him, pushing him out of the way, but the crowd grew agitated that this little monk dared to interfere with the sport. Someone in the crowd shouted “Run him through! Kill him!” and the rest of the crowd joined in.

A gladiator listened to the crowds and struck Telemachus with a mortal wound. Telemachus fell to his knees, and with his last breaths, gasped, “In the name of Christ…stop this!”

Then something strange happened. The soldiers and spectators stopped, watching this monk die. His death wasn’t like the deaths that entertained them moments ago. It was different. There was no roar for the victor. Silence overtook the arena. Then one onlooker walked away. Then another. And another, until the spectators deserted the Coliseum, never to return. Tradition says that the death of the little country monk brought an end to the spectacle of organized murder for entertainment.

There is much to admire and learn from the life and death of Telemachus. What principles of scripture does he remind you of?

More than a Feeling

loveverbLove is more than a feeling. It is a choice, a pursuit, a decision, an action, a lifestyle. When we reduce love to something as fleeting as an emotion, we tear out the support that allows it to weather the storms of life. Here’s a short lesson on Christian love from a helpful book about the purpose of marriage by Gary Thomas called Sacred Marriage.

“Christian love, on the other hand, must be chased after, aspired to, and practiced. The popular culture completely misunderstands this principle.

One of the cruelest and most self-condemning remarks I’ve ever heard is the one that men often use when they leave their wives for another woman: “The truth is, I’ve never loved you.”

This is meant to be an attack on the wife — saying, in effect, “The truth is, I’ve never found you lovable.”

But put in a Christian context, it’s a confession of the man’s utter failure to be a Christian. If he hasn’t loved his wife, it is not his wife’s fault, but his. Jesus calls us to love even the unlovable — even our enemies! — so a man who says “I’ve never loved you” is a man who is saying essentially this: “I’ve never acted like a Christian.”

Thomas calls us on the carpet for our tendency to blame others for our failing at the simplest commands of Christianity. Love isn’t optional. It’s more than a feeling.

So even when you don’t feel like it, love anyway. When the other person doesn’t deserve it, love anyway. When you’re tired and cranky and you’ve had a bad day, love anyway.

From Selfishness to Selflessness

selfless-selfishPicture_65Most people marry for selfish reasons. “She makes me happy.” “She’s beautiful.” “She treats me well.”

Many marriages fail for selfish reasons. “He didn’t make me happy anymore, so I found someone who did.” “I don’t feel what I used to feel about him.”

For marriages to succeed, we have to move from the selfish to the selfless. Selfishness may lead us to the altar, but the vows we make are vows of selflessness. We promise to love, honor, and cherish in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer until death do us part. Successful couples grow out of selfishness.

We can see the same phenomenon in raising children. We hope our children will bring us joy, but that hope can easily turn into co-dependence or vicarious life that strangles a healthy relationship. Successful  parents are selfless parents.

The same pattern can be seen in church. Many guests first attend a congregation and ask, “What can you do for me and my family?” They analyze the programs and preaching and evaluate the church based on what the church does for them. It’s a normal, but selfish, approach.

Many relationships with congregations fail for selfish reasons. “They didn’t do what I wanted.” “They pushed me out of my comfort zone.” “I disagreed with a decision.” Before long—these people have moved on to greener pastures, because the church asks you to be like Jesus, who served, rather than expecting service (see Mark 10:45).

Selfishness is easy in the short-term, but deadly in the long-term.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

To paraphrase J.F.K., ask not what your spouse or child or friend or church can do for you…but what you can do for them.

You won’t find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness.” (Gary Thomas)

Help!!!

drownImagine that you’re relaxing by the pool on a warm summer afternoon. You’re watching a child play when suddenly the smile vanishes from his face. He’s no longer splashing and having fun. He’s thrashing in terror. He drifted into the deep end, and he can’t swim. He’s drowning.

What would you do next?

Option One: Run inside, grab a copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Swimming,” and bring it to the pool and throw it to the child so he can learn how to swim.

Option Two: Yell at the child, “You should really stop drowning! You’ll die if you don’t quit that! Start swimming!”

Option Three: Jump in the pool and carry the child to safety.

Option Four: Do nothing and watch.

Which option did you choose?

If you anything but number three, never offer to babysit our kids!

There are scenarios in which each of the options might be correct.

There are times that we need instruction. “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Swimming” might have been useful to prevent this situation, but in the moment of panic, it is totally useless.

There are times we need correction. A reminder of the consequences of our actions can be really helpful. But once we’re in over our heads, it serves as little more than a self-righteous “I told you so.”

There are times when we sit by and let people learn lessons from the natural consequences of their actions. This story isn’t one of those times, the stakes are too high.

Sometimes, the only option is to jump into the mess and pick someone up and hold them.

It can be messy, dangerous, and hard, but sometimes that’s the only way. Jude says that some people need a gentle act of mercy, but we “save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 1:23).

When people around you are drowning—spiritually, emotionally, financially, relationally—make sure to help in a helpful way.