Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On the True Character of Christian Teaching

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. (James 3: 1-2)

Listen, Job, to what I say and ponder all my words. The teaching of the arrogant has this characteristic: they do not know how to introduce their teaching humbly and they cannot convey correctly to others the things they understand correctly themselves. With their words they betray what they teach; they give the impression that they live on lofty heights from which they look down disdainfully on those whom they are teaching; they regard the latter as inferiors, to whom they do not deign to listen as they talk; indeed they scarcely deign to talk to them at all - they simply lay down the law.

 To teachers of this kind the Lord through the prophet says rightly: But you will rule them with severity and with power. There is no doubt that such as are prone not to correct their subjects with quiet reasoning, but to compel them to change by rough and domineering methods, rule with severity and power.

On the contrary true doctrine all the more effectively shuns the voice of arrogance through reflection, in which it pursues the arrogant teacher himself with the arrows of its words. It ensures that the pride which it attacks in the hearts of those listening to the sacred words will not in fact be preached by arrogant conduct. For true doctrine tries both to teach by words and to demonstrate by living example - humility, which is the mother and mistress of virtues. Its goal is to express humility among the disciples of truth more by deeds than by words.

- From the Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome [604]

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