Soft Clothing?

Following Jesus can be trying.

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?”

   - Matthew 11.7, 8

...we Christians are conquered in this spiritual warfare, first by our carnal vices and proud way of life, and then by the weakness of our wavering faith, whose feebleness is the reason for our being surrounded unawares by our enemies in triple ranks, who have been given to punish our luxurious ease.

   - Columbanus, Letter to Pope Boniface, Irish, 7th century

There was nothing soft about John the Baptist, or about Jesus, for that matter.

Life in the ranks of Jesus’ disciples must have been fairly trying. Always on the move, living off the generosity of friends, facing threats and harassment, sleeping out of doors, putting up with ingratitude, opposition, and indifference. In Jesus’ commendation of John the Baptist He put His followers on notice: no one associated with Jesus should look for an easy road.

The life of faith is not about ease and plenty, comfort and “fun”, but taking up your cross daily, dying to yourself, and being hated by the world because you love the way of holiness.

Which is what Columbanus was writing to the Pope about. He had encountered some of the Pope’s bishops and priests, and, well, they weren’t the sort of folk he was familiar with in his service to the Lord. The ease and luxury of the churches in 7th-century Gaul testified not to their strength but to their weakness. They were losing the spiritual warfare because they were too comfortable, too set in their ways, and unwilling to take up the life of sacrifice and suffering in anything other than theory.

They chafed at the austere life and uncompromising message of Columbanus and his colleagues, and they responded by trying to silence him. Comfortable Christians do not like to have their comfort disturbed.

Columbanus’ complaint to the Pope could just as well have been written to believers today. Have we become so determined to have a soft life of following Jesus that we are unwilling to give up any comfort or take on any inconvenience for the glory of God? What did we expect when we came after the Lord?

Because if it’s soft clothing, we’re following the wrong God.

Psalm 4.6, 7 (Picardy: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”)
Wicked men may scorn and try us, casting doubt upon Your grace;
Send Your Spirit, Lord, don’t deny us till we see Your glorious face.
You Who sent Your Son to buy us, fill our hearts with joy and grace.

Lord, let me fear neither want, nor opposition, nor hardship, but keeping in mind the promise of heaven, let me serve You daily in all my ways. Adapted from Patrick, Confession

T. M. Moore, Principal
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[1] Walker, p. 45.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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