Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Disagreeing Well: Gregory the Great

Here is a wonderful example of why we still need to read books by dead people (h/t Michael - although admittedly it comes as a quote from a contemporary book). Gregory the Great (540-604) writes:
"Provided that it is in good faith, then, it is a mark of virtue to put up with superiors' faults. One should, nevertheless, if there is any prospect that the offending trait could be emended, make a humble suggestion to that effect. Yet one should take great care, when defending justice, not to go too far and cross the threshold of arrogance; not, in an ill-judged love of right, to forfeit humility, the mistress of right; not to forget that the person of whose action one happens to be critical is in fact one's senior. Subjects will discipline their minds to guard humility and avoid the swelling of pride, if they keep an incessant watch on their own weaknesses.

For we neglect to examine our own strength honestly; and because we believe ourselves stronger than we really are, we judge our superiors severely. The less we know of ourselves, the more our field of vision is occupied by those whom we aspire to criticize." - Gregory the Great (540-604) Moralia, Book 25:16:36 in From Irenaeus to Grotius" ed O'Donovan and O'Donovan p. 202.
One of the most valuable things I learned at uni was: it is very easy to be right. It's much harder to be right and still be gracious and loving. Especially in the Sydney Evangelical culture in which I live (which I love, by the way). Yet that is what Paul urges us to do:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4.1-6


Mike W said...

If you want to read the old people, (Christian Classics Ethereal Library) is where it is at. They have copious amounts of church fathers, all for free to read on the web (and plain text too!)

Matthew Moffitt said...

Yes, but not as pretty as having them sit on a book shelf.

Mike W said...

true, I was looking at the 22 volume Calvin commentaries and 38 Vol Ante- Nicean and post Nicean Fathers yesterday.....droooool.