We all have rules that we live by, conscious, or not. As Christians, we have the Bible to guide us in making wise decisions. The overall concept of all ten commandments are summed up in two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. But to reach such a level of passion, we need to be able to control certain aspects of our life. This comes through prayer and daily devotion. St Columban knew this and wrote a Rule that would apply to the monks under his charge. While the Rule is almost 1500 years old, we can still apply aspects of it to aid us in fulfilling the Greatest Commandment.
Who was St Columban?
St Columban was an Irish missionary who lived in 560 AD. Through his travels, St Columban established several monasteries in the European continent. He is one of the greatest missionaries to the Celtic church of his age by rejuvenating the country spiritually. However, he was criticized not only for his way of life but for calling out those who were falling short and living lives of immorality and corruption.
What is the Rule of St Columban?
The Rule of St Columban is a set of ten rules to guide those who were repenting of sins committed. While the Rule of St Columban bases itself on the Catholic confession and penitential practices, the principles can still apply to Christianity. The ten tenants of the Rule were (the quotes are all excerpts taken from the definition of the rule):
- Obedience – “Thus nothing must be refused in their obedience by Christ’s true disciples, however hard and difficult it be, but it must be seized with zeal, with gladness.”
- Silence – “And thus, lest one be apprehended as guilty of much talking, it is needful that he keeps silence, except for things profitable and necessary.”
- Food and Drink – “For indeed those who desire eternal rewards must only consider the usefulness and use.”
- Overcoming Greed – “While they will have much in heaven, on earth they should be satisfied with the small possessions of utter need, knowing that greed is a leprosy.”
- Overcoming Vanity – “Let no large word proceed from a monk’s mouth, lest his own large labor perish.”
- Chasity – “The spirit and the mind which He has seen undefiled, in which there is no adulterous thought, no stain of a spirit polluted, and no spot of sin.”
- Choir Office – “Although the length of standing or singing may be various, yet the identity of prayer in the heart and mental concentration that is unceasing with God’s help will be of a single excellence.”
- Discretion – “Discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete.”
- Mortification – “Learn true lowliness as they obey without murmuring and hesitation, that according to the Lord’s word. Not to disagree in mind, not to speak as one pleases with the tongue, not to go anywhere with complete freedom.”
- Monk’s Perfection – “Let the monk live in a community under the discipline of one father and in company with many.”
Each of these tenants of the rule of St Columban connected scripture to how a person was to live and follow Christ more effectively.
How Can Christians Apply the Rule of St Columban to their Lives Today?
Let’s look at each of these tenants of the Rule of St Columban and apply the principle to the daily Christian life.
- Obedience – Samuel tells Saul when God has rejected him as king that to “obey is better than sacrifice.” God looks for our obedience to His plan for our life, anything short of that is disobedience. When we hear the calling of God on our life, we must act according to His Will.
- Silence – We have all heard the saying “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” It is a good motto to follow. Grumbling and complaining is not a good witness for Christ.
- Food and Drink – The abuse of the enjoyment of life is a habit many of us have. To remain humble, we must not give into overindulgence. Anything that takes our eyes off Christ can deter us in our walk with Him.
- Overcoming Greed – We must learn to differentiate between needs and wants. We need air, food, water, and the breath in our lungs. We want a new house, a new phone, a better job. God is our provider. He knows exactly what we need when we need it; trust in that.
- Overcoming Vanity – Paul knew this struggle He chose not to boast in his status or his accomplishments. He chose to boast in the Lord and who He is. We cannot take credit for what we accomplish when He has given us the ability to accomplish it.
- Chasity – Keeping ourselves pure. This goes beyond sexual purity. It is spiritual purity as well. When we focus our hearts and minds on the Lord and fill ourselves with His presence, the impurities will become less attractive.
- Choir Office – I can hear some worship leaders perking up. Our hearts and minds need to be in a constant state of worshipping God. Not just in the physical act of praise, but the underlying attitude. Not begrudgingly, not impatient, or simply going through the motions.
- Discretion – Understand the difference between good and evil. When we are unsure of which way to go, pray. Consult God, a pastor, a trusted friend, all from a Christian point of view. Isaiah 30:21 teaches us that God will show us the way, and we should “walk in it.”
- Mortification – Sort of a branch of Discretion; knowing what is right and wrong and obeying the direction of God without complaint. Another word for Mortification in this Rule is Humility.
- Monk’s Perfection – This is pretty much the acceptance of accountability. We all need brothers and sisters to be bold enough to tell us when we are straying from God. We also need the ability to accept correction and be quick to admit when we are wrong and willingness to turn back to God.
St Columban: Today’s Message
The Rule of St Columban applies to all Christianity. While it may seem antiquated, the spiritual truths it contains are just what we need to maintain our Christian walk. When we choose to follow Jesus, non-believers begin to examine the life we lead. If we fail, we damage the witness we have in Christ. However, when we do stumble, it is best to get right back up and continue.
Yes, some may point a finger, but messing up is just proof we are human. There is no better way of introducing others to a God of grace, than through seeing a messed-up Christian. Admit we failed, repent, and turn away from what caused us to fall in the first place. Then give the glory to the One who loves us enough to forgive us despite our sinful nature.
Jeff S Bray wrote this article.