“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.”
- John 15.22
I beg you to pardon me, too hurtful and rough a speaker; on such a matter I could not write otherwise. For while in all things I have wanted to agree with truth, not without knowing that I must eat unleavened bread with bitterness, I have served only God, Who is blessed for ever.
- Columbanus, Letter to Pope Boniface, Irish, 7th century
Columbanus’ basic problem was that he had no patience with status quo Christianity.
For decades, the priests and pastors of the churches in early 7th-century Gaul had been managing a no-risk faith, dancing around the whims and wants of local rulers, making themselves at ease and prosperous, and comforting their flocks with the idea that all they had to do was believe, come to church, and keep up the appearances of religion, and they would have the eternal blessing of God.
This was not the Gospel as Columbanus had learned it. It was not the understanding of Christianity he intended to spread throughout his Personal Mission Field.
Columbanus preached to the rulers and clerics of Gaul: What about righteousness? What about justice? What about the Good News of Christ as Lord and King? And he backed up that preaching with actions, even refusing to baptize the bastard children of the unrepentant king.
For his trouble he was ratted on to Rome, and Pope Boniface demanded an accounting. His answer? I stand for the truth, even though I know it is bitter and lonely to do so. But God knows, Whom I serve at all times, and God will bless.
Local bishops and priests summoned Columbanus to come before them, to hear their rebuke and amend his teaching. He declined to come, since he did not recognize their authority over him, and he had too much work to do anyway.
Columbanus would not go along with the status quo Christianity, just so he could get along with the civil and ecclesiastical powers of his day.
Truth may not always be comfortable, but it is always truth.
Today a kind of “near Christianity” infects a great many of the churches of the land. People are happy and assured that they’re going to heaven when they die, that God loves them and wants them to prosper, but that He doesn’t get too exercised about things like sin and righteousness and (especially) keeping the Law.
The latest versions of status quo Christianity have landed the Church in America on the margins of society – which, in case no one has noticed, runs perilously close to the ledge. Our moral, social, and cultural influence is waning, and our spiritual influence is hardly apparent.
So much for being the light, leaven, and salt of the earth. Or of our Personal Mission Fields.
The cost of truth is obedience, faithfulness, and courage in the face of an entrenched and comfortable status quo of let’s-just-all-go-along-to-get-along. But in our going along, if we don’t go along with the truth, we’ll have to explain that, not to some perturbed pastor, discomfited congregant, or crusty colleague, but to God.
Jesus is the truth. And He has called us to follow Him, and equipped us with manifold gifts, in order that through us He might fill all things with Himself (Eph. 4.8-10).
But He will not fill our souls, our lives, or our Personal Mission Fields if our vision as His followers is nothing more than to maintain the comfortable status quo.
All truth is God’s truth, all the time. Columbanus understood this, and he stood for truth without regard for what it might cost him. His example should encourage us to do the same.
Psalm 24.3-6 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Oh, who may ascend to the Lord’s holy place? And who may appear to His glorious face?
All they who are clean in their hearts and their hands, and true in their souls with the Savior shall stand.
A blessing all they from the Lord shall receive who seek Him and on His salvation believe.
For these are His people, the children of grace, Who earnestly, eagerly seek for His face.
Lord, am I too comfortable in my faith? Help me, like Columbanus, to stand for the truth.
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Walker, p. 53.