Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Lesson From Pachomius

A man named Pachomius, an Egyptian soldier, became a Christian after his release from the military. He soon became a follower of another man named Palamon who was an ascetic, whose idea of the Christian life was self-denial and a solitary existence.

But Pachomius began to question the idea of such solitude as an effective way to develop real spirituality. His questions were honest, practical, and down to earth:
How can you learn to love if no one else is around?
How can you learn humility living alone?
How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?
How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?

 He said, "To save souls, you must bring them together."

I think Pachomius was brilliant. He resisted the lean toward the solitary life so popular during his time. While certainly different from what we see today, there is a growing tendency among modern Christians to something akin to “individual” faith. It’s behind the statements people make about not attending church. “Well, I just think I can be as close to God alone in the forest, or at the lake, than I can be with him in church!” What they’re saying is that they don’t need anybody else. God and themselves is plenty.

We see similar attitudes in young people today. They simply do not see the need for “church.” They are bailing out by the droves. They are not the only ones, just the latest wave. We’re actually well into a generation or more of people who don’t see the value of gathering together at church. They think they can do just fine, thank-you-very-much, without having to show up for meetings.

The ascetic has long believed that the deepest spirituality was developed alone with God. Thus they hid away in caves, wandered the deserts, or lived in remote places where they could enjoy a very private, intense kind of faith. At least that’s what they thought.

Pachomius, however, saw the flaws in this thinking. His questions are right on target, and they are still on target for us today.

The Bible teaches that we should love one another. But without somebody around to love, it’s impossible to develop a loving spirit.

Humility? Impossible living alone or separated from other people.

Kindness and gentleness, by the very definition of the words, requires some other person to be the recipient of our actions.

One of my favorites is patience. Yes, you actually need a few people who drive you up the wall for patience to become real in your life.

But we’re still not good with these things. Too many run away and hide, or at best, surround themselves only with those who create no tension at all. Those who do this remain in an immature faith.

Which brings me to the point I want you to hang on to. Why should we invite people to church, invite them to become involved with us, invite them to settle in and become part of our church family?  Because they need us and we need them. Neither of us can grow like we should without the other.

Churches can get comfortable. We begin to feel safe and we’re grateful that we achieve a peaceful and settled atmosphere. But this is the mindset of the hermit. We need to be constantly stirred by fresh faces and new lives among us. It’s in the sharing of life and its constantly changing face that we become what God desires us to be. Invite some folks to church!