Who made thee a judge over us? To such a man I answer before he speaks, that there is no impudence where there is an agreed need for the edification of the church; and if he takes exception to my person, let him consider not the character of the speaker, but the matter of my speech.
- Columbanus, Letter to Pope Boniface, Irish, 7th century
For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge.
- 2 Corinthians 11.5, 6
Columbanus was not the sort to go along with slip-shoddiness. He was serious about the Gospel and the Kingdom, and this seriousness made him a thorn in the flesh to those in 7th century Gaul (France) who preferred a more worldly and easy-going faith.
Church leaders there enjoyed a comfortable status quo, and they agreed to turn a blind eye to the sins of people, peers, and princes. It was go-along-to-get-along in the Church in Gaul, and everybody was content.
Until Columbanus arrived.
Columbanus’ ministry in Gaul, in the midst of a comfy, moribund church and its complacent shepherds, was one of re-evangelizing the saved and equipping a new generation of leaders. He didn’t mince words when it came to confronting the laziness, luxury, and laxity of the clergy, or the sinfulness of the royal court. And he insisted that those who came to him as students commit to a disciplined life of growing in the Lord and preparing for martyrdom.
As I said, he was serious about the Gospel.
Columbanus wasn’t very popular with the powers-that-be, whether civil or ecclesiastical, but he couldn’t have cared less. He was always truthful, honest, and respectful, though he did not hesitate to confront sin or laxity whenever he encountered it. He confronted the king and queen mother and called them to repentance. He rebuked the compromised clergy and rebuffed their attempts to bring him into line. He wrote to popes, encouraging them to light a fire under those who served under their authority (which Columbanus did not). His zeal was for the Gospel, the Church, and the progress of Christ’s Kingdom. These convictions guided all his endeavors, and every word that came out of his mouth; and they brought hundreds of Gaul’s finest young people to faith in Christ and life-long commitments to serve and follow Him.
Ours is a go-along-to-get-along generation. We don’t believe in confrontation. We don’t think we ought to comment about the way people live (or not) their Christian lives. After all, who do we think we are to insist that others should be consistent in their faith? Who died and left us in charge?
But what the Christian movement needs just now are disciples, more consistent, more devoted to the Lord, and more zealous for His Kingdom and righteousness. Such would not be able to keep from calling for the repentance and renewal our generation of Christians so sorely needs.
Columbanus considered himself to be God’s ambassador to a worldly church and a pagan land. He determined to follow the Lord and His Word in every matter. He didn’t care what anybody else thought, and he didn’t back down from his offensive words and ways. God used his holy impudence and stubborn resolve to bring revival throughout Europe.
Just so, we are called to be ambassadors for a Kingdom not of this world. We must seek it daily, proclaim it boldly, and call the people we know to enter that Kingdom through repentance, faith, and obedience to Christ and His Word.
Columbanus understood he was a child of the King of kings and a servant of the Lord of lords, a citizen and ambassador of a Kingdom that was coming on earth as it is in heaven, a laborer in the Lord’s vineyard cultivating a new harvest of souls and saints. That’s who Columbanus thought he was, and he lived the whole of his life toward an ever-greater realization of that vision.
And that’s how we must learn to think about ourselves.
1. What does it mean for you to seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God today?
2. How can you improve your work as an ambassador of the Lord’s Kingdom?
Psalm 82.8 (Aurelia: The Church’s One Foundation)
Rise up, O God, in splendor according to Your worth!
Rise up in pow’r to judge all the nations of the earth!
Rise up, O God our Savior, and hear our fervent call,
For You possess and rule o’er the nations one and all.
I am Your ambassador, Lord, to all the people in my Personal Mission Field, and today I must…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All psalms for singing are 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. 37.