Chapter 4 of Benedict’s Rule of Life speaks to the topic of “The Tools for Good Works” and it’s fascinating what he covers in this chapter…with a “punch line” at the end. In this chapter he begins with the simple reminder to first of all, “Love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Then, all else will follow “You are not to kill, not to commit adultery; you are not to steal nor to covet, you are not to bear false witness. You must honor everyone, and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself.” Five biblical mandates all tied together in the opening paragraph.
Then, for the next twelve paragraphs he quotes from an additional eight biblical texts with commentary in between. For Benedict, the tools for good works reside within oneself and how we are to act toward others. In this regard, it’s more about self-discipline than external “tools” to be used in a more utilitarian manner toward others. “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” This different-from-the-world way of living includes such actions as: You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge; rid your heart of all deceit; never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love; bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.
And then, what follows is masterful…instructions for his followers that sticks close to the Scriptures and how best to fulfill what the Lord invites us as believers to be as children of God. “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting. Go to help the troubled and console the sorrowing.” All of this is outward in focus, but comes from a heart of loving obedience.
- Do not repay one bad turn for another
- Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently
- Love your enemies; if people curse you, bless them instead
- Endure perseverance for the sake of justice
- Do not be proud, nor be given to wine
- Refrain from laziness; do not grumble or speak ill of others
- Place your hope in God alone; always give credit to God
- Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire
- Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech
- Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer
- Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh
- Live by God’s commandments every day; treasure chastity
- Do not love quarreling; shun arrogance; pray for your enemies out of love for Christ…
And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy. The punchline: “The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.” Frankly, this is essential to all such teachings: practice living this way in the safety of the Christian community in which you live – for Benedict it was the monastery, for us today it’s in our homes, our churches, our faith communities where we spend the most time with those we are called to love and serve first and foremost. What grieves my heart today is the strife that exists in those very “workshops” where love is meant to reign supreme.
So, the “punchline” for all of us today is to assess the health and vitality of our own marriages, families, churches, and ministries – these are the workshops where we learn how to love the Lord our God with our full selves and then love others as we love ourselves. Practice such “tools for good works” in the security of your most intimate circles of relationships, work out your salvation in these venues, and then show the wider world what love looks, sounds, tastes and feels like.
As you ponder Benedict’s Rule of Life consider crafting your own personal rule of life. Join the community of others on this journey at www.RuleOfLife.com and like us on Facebook at Crafting A Rule of Life.
At the beginning of the actual “text” of Benedict’s Rule of Life there is a sub-title that reads “It is called a rule because it regulates the lives of those who obey it.” And, if we recall from my previous entry, it’s “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” but instead is intended to create abundance of life for all.
One of the early chapters of the Rule (chapter two) is about the Qualities of the Abbot, with instructions for the leader. In this chapter he spells out what’s to be expected of the person who has the task of governing a monastery, the place where the community resides. ”The abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from the Lord’s instructions. On the contrary, everything he teaches and command should, like the leaven of divine justice, permeate the minds of his disciples…aware that the shepherd will bear the blame wherever the father of the household finds that the sheep have yielded no profit.”
Leadership principles that uphold the role of the Abbot were espoused by Benedict in several ways. The following are especially noteworthy, with application to today’s leaders of faith communities:
- “He must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example.” I find this fascinating…that the “stubborn and dull” need both the words and the example of the leader in order to make instructions clear.
- “The abbot should avoid all favoritism in the monastery. He is not to love one more than another unless he finds someone better in good actions and obedience…and is free to change anyone’s rank as justice demands…if found better than others in good works and in humility.” In this regard, the leader is to love all with impartiality, but is to take special note of those who show themselves to be the more humble and willing to serve…great advice.
- “In his teaching, the abbot should always observe the Apostle’s recommendation, in which he says ‘use argument, appeal, reproof’ (2 Tim. 4:2) This means that he must vary with circumstances, threatening and coaxing by turns, stern as a taskmaster, devoted and tender as only a father can be. With the undisciplined and restless, he will use firm argument; with the obedient and docile and patient, he will appeal for greater virtue; but as for the negligent and disdainful, we charge him to use reproof and rebuke. He should not gloss over the sins of those who err…” Here the leader is charged to be fatherly toward all under his care, with permission to be more firm with the undisciplined; more appealing to greater virtue among the more obedient and patient; and to use rebuke among the negligent and disdainful. In other words, ‘a little strictness in order to safeguard love’ in and among the community.
- “The abbot must always remember what he is and remember what he is called, aware that more will be expected of a man to whom more has been entrusted.He must know what a difficult and demanding burden he has undertaken: directing souls and serving a variety of temperaments, coaxing, reproving and encouraging them as appropriate…the abbot must know that anyone undertaking the charge of souls must be ready to account for them.” The overall summary of the role of the leader is to “direct souls” and that anyone with such a charge over them must at all times be ready to execute that responsibility.
Leadership in any faith community is demanding work. It’s not for the faint of heart. I find it interesting that Benedict so early in his Rule speaks to the importance of leadership in the specific role of Abbot. If only all leaders in the Church today were held to similarly high standards in the deportment of their duties, especially in the care of souls. Lord, have mercy on all leaders in the body of Christ today!
When St. Benedict wrote his famous “Rule of Life” for the community of brothers that would join him in this unique endeavor, he penned a fabulous Preface that’s chock full of invitation. He quotes from the Scriptures and bases his Rule on the Biblical text as the primary guide for this shared life of prayer. In fact, the Rule is basically about two main issues: community (their life together) and contemplation (their commitment to prayer).
He writes, “Let us open our eyes to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts.’ And again, ‘You that have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Over and over again he cites over a dozen such passages, all of which are calling them to a posture of listening and attentiveness to the voice of God as articulated in the Scriptures. His focus on the teachings of Jesus is best summarized in the Matthew 7 analogy, “Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; the floods came and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on the rock.”
Benedict’s Rule was and is today founded on the Rock, the Scriptures which guided him to these sentiments about life together in godly community. “Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned , however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.” These are a few of my favorite sentences in the Preface!
Nothing harsh, nothing burdensome…instead, the emphasis was to be always on life! The particulars of Benedict’s Rule were very specific, but not at all with an intention to harm or hurt those who would participate. The intention was that all would flourish, and indeed they did and remain so today.
A little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love…this short statement in itself is full of great wisdom. If only churches and communities of faith would have a similar guideline today. A little discipline goes a long way toward reconciliation, which always has the preservation of love as its focal point.
What from this portion of the Preface feels invitational to you today? To posture your life around attending to the voice of God, primarily through His Word? To be sure that all expectations within your faith community are focused on living an abundant life together? To consider how best to adhere to a little strictness in order to create an environment of reconciliation and love? These are just a few ideas to prayerfully consider…let me know how the Lord makes his voice clear to you!
1500 years ago Benedict left the city of Rome to hear from God. He ended up in a cave some distance outside the city. There he listened to God and crafted a Rule of Life, which has survived to this day for Benedictine communities worldwide. Benedict’s Rule has been an inspiration to many others since then, including yours truly. For the summer I will be offering various parts of the Rule for insight and information, and with a prayer that as you read portions of his community rule you will consider prayerfully the various parts and pieces of your own personal rule of life. Be sure to visit www.RuleOfLife.com for additional information to assist you in this process.
From Benedict’s Prologue…
“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”
Wow, what an opening paragraph! Key words and phrases that pop for me: Listen – Instructions – Attend – Ear of your heart – Advice from a father who loves you – Welcome it – Faithfully put it into practice – Labor of obedience – Sloth of disobedience – Give up your own will – Do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.
A Rule of Life is liberating for all. It’s designed to bring about greater obedience to the King by reordering your loves. In order to attend well to what the Father who loves you is inviting for your life, you must listen with the ears of your heart.
Pause today and listen to the voice of the King…what is His invitation for you, in all the major areas of your life?
July 1 is the 11th Anniversary of Leadership Transformations! We give God all the glory, honor and praise for the many ways He has called, gifted, and empowered us to serve His Kingdom!
I’m thanking the Lord for the many people He has sent our way over the years and who today form what’s affectionately called the “LTI Family” They are spread across the country and into other parts of the world. They represent all different strata of society and a variety of denominations and cultures. The LTI Family has been called and set apart to serve leaders and teams in their spiritual formation, discernment and renewal.
Today’s blog is my Alleluia Applause to God for calling 30 amazing ministry partners who so generously serve the Church through our multiple ministry initiatives. I’m listing their names here as my prayer of praise to the Lord is lifted in their behalf on this special day of joyful celebration. LTI exists today because of the people who serve the people we serve!
Ruth Macchia, Co-Founder and Life-Partner
Rick Anderson, Senior Vice President
Joellen Maurer, Executive Assistant
Susan Currie, Director of Selah and Associate in Formation
Diana Bennett, Board Member and Director of Emmaus
Jeremy Stefano, Minister of Spiritual Formation
Sage Paik, Graphic Designer
Liz Whitfield, Accounts Receivable Manager
David McKiel, Accountant
Elinor Beatty, Board Member and Spiritual Formation Associate
Gayle Heaslip, Spiritual Formation Associate
Greg Mahoney, Website and Software Developer
Rich Plass, Spiritual Formation Associate
Warren Schuh, Lead Church Health Coach
Jim Smith, Sabbatical Coach
David Wu, Spiritual Formation Associate, Houston
Tom Griffith, Pierce Center Coordinator, Boston
Shari Adams, Pierce Center Coordinator, Charlotte
Angela Wisdom, Selah Senior Faculty
Adele Calhoun, Selah Faculty
David Vryhof, Selah Faculty
John French, Selah Faculty
Genalin Niere, Selah Faculty
Mike Chuli, Board Chairman
David Beatty, Board of Directors
Jean Kingston, Board of Directors
Joe Krivickas, Board of Directors
Brian Lacey, Clerk of the Board
Mark Holbrook, National Advisor to the Board
Yours Truly, Steve Macchia, Founder and President
If you haven’t perused our website recently, I want to invite you to do so today, and as you page through the site please join me in thanking God for the unique ministry of Leadership Transformations!
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