Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why Some Good People Run Away

Gregory of Nazianzus didn't want to be a priest. His priestly father, with a little help from his friends, I imagine, forcibly ordained him in 361 A.D.

Gregory immediately ran away. Literally. He retreated to his familiar contemplative life, and didn't come back to face the music until the next year. Months later, when he came home and embraced the role to which he'd been appointed he realized he had some explaining to do. His sermon-apology "On the Priesthood" is one of the first extended reflections on Christian ministry. And it's a great read.

In it, Gregory mentions several things that kept him from desiring the priesthood. Most of his reasons come straight from the category of "some things never change." Like this one:

"I was ashamed of all those others, who, without being better than ordinary people, nay, it is a great thing if they be not worse, with unwashen hands, as the saying runs, and uninitiated souls, intrude into the most sacred offices; and, before becoming worthy to approach the temples, they lay claim to the sanctuary, and they push and thrust around the holy table, as if they thought this order to be a means of livelihood, instead of a pattern of virtue, or an absolute authority, instead of a ministry of which we must give account."

Preachers, elders, teachers, leaders: Like all stewards, you must and will give account. Be holy. Others are watching. Some with much greater promise and potential than you. Will those people be drawn to or repelled from Christian leadership because of you? Think about it. Pray about it. It's eternally important.

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