III. HUMAN RESPECT
THE MEANS OF OVERCOMING HUMAN RESPECT
In order to overcome human respect it is necessary to fix in our hearts the holy resolution of preferring the grace of God to all the goods and favours of the world, and to say with St. Paul: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers … nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Rom. viii. 38). Jesus Christ exhorts us not to fear those who can take away the life of the body; but to fear Him only Who can condemn the soul and body to hell. And fear ye not them that kill the body .. . but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell (Matt. x. 28). We wish either to follow God or the world; if we wish to follow God we must give up the world. How long do you halt between two sides? said Elias to the people. If the Lord be God, follow him (3 Kings xviii. 21). You cannot serve God and the world. He that seeks to please men cannot please God. If, says the Apostle, I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. i. 10).
The true servants of God rejoice at seeing themselves despised and maltreated for the sake of Jesus Christ. The holy Apostles went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the Name of Jesus (Acts v. 41). Moses could have prevented the anger of Pharaoh by not contradicting the current report that he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But he denied that he was her son, preferring, as St. Paul says, the opprobrium of Christ to all the riches of the world. Choosing rather to be afflicted with the people of God; … esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of the Egyptians (Heb. xi. 25-26).
Wicked friends come to you and say: What extravagances are these in which you indulge? Why do you not act like others? Say to them: My conduct is not opposed to that of all men; there are others who lead holy lives. They are indeed few; but I will try and follow their example; for the Gospel says: Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. xx. 16). “If,” says St. John Climacus, “you wish to be saved with the few, live like the few.” But, they will say: Do you not see that all murmur against you, and condemn your manner of living? Let your answer be: It is enough for me that God does not censure my conduct. Is it not better to obey God than to obey men? Such was the answer of St. Peter and St. John to the Jewish priests: If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge ye (Acts iv. 19). If they ask you how can you bear an insult? or if you submit to it how you can appear among your equals? Answer them by saying that you are a Christian, and that it is enough for you to be right in the eyes of God. Such should be your answer to all those satellites of Satan; you must despise all their maxims and reproaches. And when it is necessary to reprove those who make little of God’s law, you must take courage and correct them publicly. Them that sin, reprove before all (1 Tim. v. 20). And when there is question of the Divine honour, we should not be frightened by the dignity of the man who offends God; let us say to him openly: That is sinful; it cannot be done. Let us imitate St. John the Baptist who reproved King Herod for living with his brother’s wife, and said to him: It is not lawful for thee to have her (Matt. xiv. 4). Men, indeed, will regard us as fools, and turn us into derision; but on the Day of Judgment they will acknowledge that they have been fools, and we shall have the glory of being numbered among the Saints. They shall say: These are they whom we had sometime in derision … We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints (Wis. v. 3-5).