I spent a good portion of this weekend at a prayer and worship gathering in the ruins of a 12th century monastery. Part of the goal was to connect with the hundreds of years of prayers that have gone up from that place.
Although not very much remains intact today, it was once a solid and peaceful oasis in an age of civil wars and much chaos. Monastic life was a mostly silent rhythm of prayer and agricultural labor. And something about that mix was able to keep the chaos of the world away.
While wandering the ruins in prayer, I was reminded of these verses:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV)
Seen from a modern evangelical perspective, it is temptingly easy to focus on the theological errors which may have been a part of Cistercian monastic traditions. That would be a kind of "cancel culture"—concluding that nothing good may be honored where something bad has been found. And who can live up to that kind of a standard?
In our own day, we have the chaos of abortion, or gender issues, or vaccinations, or illegal immigration, or (alleged) voter fraud, or police brutality, or whatever may spark indignation in you (or those around you). Are you overcoming? Are you speaking only what is helpful for building others up?
Chaos is overcome by kindness and compassion. Bitterness, anger and malice grieve the Holy Spirit. Always. Regardless of how wrong something may be. If we want to see righteousness in our day, we must cultivate it with blessing and mercy. It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Or as Paul put it:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Think about that the next time you feel offended...