Lower Ourselves for Our Brother’s Sake

From “Homily 22,” Homilies on First Corinthians (ca. 390)

“If I preach the Gospel, I have none of the glory. Necessity is laid upon me! Woe unto me, if I do not preach the Gospel, a stewardship is entrusted to me!…. What then is my reward? It is that when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel without charge.”… Paul became, he writes, to the Jews as a Jew, that he might gain Jews…. To the weak, Paul became weak, so that he might gain the weak… And then, not to waste time by naming all severally, Paul says, I have become all things to all people, that I may save some. Do you see how far this ministry is carried? I have become all things to all people, not expecting, however, to save all, but that I may save but a few. And so great care and service have I undergone, as one who was focused on saving all, far however from hoping to gain all. Since likewise the sower sowed everywhere, and saved not all the seed, notwithstanding the sower did his part. And having mentioned how few were saved, he consoled those to whom this was a grief. For though it is not possible that all the seed should be saved, nevertheless it cannot be that all should perish. Wherefore he said, by all means, because one so ardently zealous must certainly have some success.

We should do as Paul; we should not think of eminence, but lower ourselves for our brother’s sake, and even submit to some abasement. For this is not to fall, but to descend. For he who falls, lies prostrate, hardly to be raised up again. However, he who descends shall also rise again with much advantage… an apostle is like a physician, a teacher, a father, the one to the sick, the other to the disciple, the third to the son. In all, he condescends for his correction…. Let us not then despair. Even if you are a reviler, or one who covets, or whatever sins you have, consider that Paul was, as we read in 1 Timothy, a blasphemer, a persecutor, injurious to Christians, and the chief of sinners, and then suddenly Paul rose to the very summit of virtue and his former life proved no hindrance to him.

St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was Archbishop of Constantinople, and one of the greatest preachers of his era. He is traditionally counted among the Four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church.  The Homilies on I Corinthians date from his ministry in his native Antioch, and were preached in the 380s and 390s. His feast day is September 13.


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