Benedict’s Rule: Transforming Dispositions (3)

The third transforming disposition is obedience.  As de Waal points out, it is related to the disposition of listening.  But it is an active listening—that is, listening with the intention of enacting what is heard.

If you’ve followed Oboedire for a while, you know that this is precisely the vision carried forward day-after-day through this blog.  Attentive formation is ultimately manifested in obedience—listening with the intention of enacting what we hear.

In terms of discipleship, obedience is captured in Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers for people” (Mark 1:17).  Obedience is following Jesus.  This is why the imitation of Christ became the dominant image of true Christianity.  For Benedict, it is also the defining concept of true Christian community.

But as the Rule of Benedict shows (and de Waal confirms over and over), Christlikeness is only possible by grace.  That’s one of the reasons many have misinterpreted Thomas a Kempis’ work (for example) as they read a false works-righteousness into his book.

No…no…a thousand times, No!  The imitation of Christ (through obedience) is only possible by grace.  But at the same time, it does not happen automatically.  The engagement of our will is the means by which the grace enters and transforms us.

Hence….obedience.  Not a response based on fear, but a response rooted in love—God’s love for us, and our love for God and neighbor.  As Benedict organizes the Rule in relation to love, he reminds us that the whole of the Christian life is shaped in relation to the two great commandments.  We live obediently to the extent that we fulfill them.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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