One of the seminars that I’m taking this semester is called Theological Foundations. As I mentioned in a post called “Theological Foundations“, I honestly did not expect to enjoy this seminar. But, I have enjoyed it immensely, and I’ve learned tremendously from the readings, from Dr. David Nelson, and from the other students.
As part of the requirements for this seminar, I’m writing a paper about Ignatius of Antioch. I had planned to write this paper about the monoepiscopacy in Ignatius’ letters – that is, the teaching that one bishop should rule each church, with presbyters/elders under him, and deacons under them. However, as I studied Ignatius, I decided to write about something different. I may share more about this later.
Since I have read Ignatius’ letters several times over the last few months, I thought I would share one of my favorite passages. This comes from his letter to the church in Ephesus:
Therefore, you are also all fellow travellers, God-bearers and temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, holiness-bearers (or saint-bearers), made beautiful according to all things by the commands of Jesus Christ… Pray without ceasing for other men. For there is hope of repentance in them that they may find God. Therefore, allow them to be taught even by your works. In response to their anger, you be gentle. In response to their boasting, you be humble. In response to their slanders, you offer prayers. In response to their error, you stand firm in the faith. In response to their wildness, you be docile, making every effort not to imitate them. Let us be found to be their brothers in graciousness. Then let us make every effort to imitate the Lord, to be the one who is the more wronged, who is the more cheated, who is the more rejected. (Ign. Eph. 9:2-10:3a)
While Ignatius spoke against false teaching among believers, he also encouraged followers of Jesus – as seen in this passage – to treat others with gentleness and humility, dealing with them prayerfully and with a steadfast faith. The idea of imitating the Lord by trying the be the one more wronged, cheated, and rejected is certainly different from what we normally hear today.
I think I can learn alot from Ignatius, especially when it comes to dealing with “others”, that is, people who are different from me. If I’m talking with or serving with people from other cultures, or with other theological stances, or either with unbelievers, I need to learn to respond in gentleness, humility, and prayer, imitating our Lord instead of imitating the ways of this world.