Living properly isn’t always enough, St. Basil tells a bishop who had been the victim of nasty rumors. We must appear to live properly as well, so that people don’t think ill of us. After all, we represent Christ, not just ourselves.
One of the hardest things to do—almost impossible, in fact—is to rise above slander. I am quite sure of this, and I imagine your excellency is as well.
Yet it is possible not to give a handle by our own conduct either to curious social critics or mischief-makers who lie in wait to catch us tripping. Not only is it possible, but it is the particular characteristic of all those who live wisely and by the rule of true religion.
Don’t think I’m so naïve and gullible that I accept nasty remarks from anyone without due investigation. I keep the Spirit’s warning in mind: you shall not receive a false report (see Exodus 23:1). But you educated men yourselves say, “What you see reveals what you don’t see.”
So please don’t be insulted if I sound like I’m giving a lesson, for “God chose what is weak” and “despised in the world” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28), and through them often brings about the salvation of the saved. I beg you, I urge you, that we should act with scrupulous attention to propriety in word and deed, and—as the Apostle taught us—“put no obstacle in anyone’s way” (2 Corinthians 6:3). The life of someone who has worked hard to gain knowledge, who has governed cities and provinces, and who tries to maintain the good reputation of his ancestors, should in itself be an example of good reputation.
–St. Basil, Letter 24
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
What do people think of Christians when they look at me?
Father, your love made me your child, with the right to call you Father. Take my life and make it a sign of your love for all to see.
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