Chrysostom and the Christian Life

Chrysostom and the Christian Life March 4, 2022

Earlier this year, I suggested starting 2022 with a John Chrysostom homily on Matthew with the caveat that I had not read the whole sermon series. I can now remove that caveat, and encourage you to read the whole thing.

Not that every sermon is spectacular–there are 90 of them and not even John Chrysostom hits a home run every time. He wanders far too close to what Luther would have called “works righteousness” at times, and definitely has his hobbyhorses and cultural concerns. (Then again, who of us doesn’t?) He is specifically concerned with giving charitably (which is obviously something Christians should be doing), but carries that to the point of voluntary poverty. And maybe it’s just that I’m an American, but I have questions about whether that’s a legitimate interpretation of Scripture.

Let’s call those points the ‘minor notes’ of the volume. The major notes are calls for believers to faithful living, holiness, and devotion to God because of the life that Christ has lived and the death that he has suffering in our place. Chrysostom calls us to love, and then tells us what that looks like:

“…he who thus loves inquiries not about race, nor country, nor wealth, nor his love to himself, nor any other such matter, but though he be hated, though he be insulted, though he be slain, continues to love, having as a sufficient ground for love, Christ; wherefore also he stands steadfast, firm, not to be overthrown, looking unto Him.

For Christ too so loved his enemies, having loved the obstinate, the injurious, the blasphemers, them that hated Him, them that would not so much as see Him; them that were preferring wood and stones to Him, and with the highest love beyond which one cannot find another. ‘For greater love hath no man than this’…’that one lay down his life for his friends.'” (Homily LX)

Chrysostom also warns us to avoid the small sins, both because they lead to the bigger ones but also because they are serious in their own right. He encourages us to appreciate the large gifts of God (salvation) and the small ones (a good meal), without focusing on the latter in favor of the former (which we are all inclined by nature to do).

And, well I could go on, but really you should read this yourself. It’s not short–plan a chunk of your yearly reading for it. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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