Didache - Chapter 5
5 The Way of Death
5:1 The way of death, on the other hand, is this: It is evil and accursed - murders, adulteries, lust, illicit sex, thefts, idolatries, magical arts, sorceries, robberies, false testimonies, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness - those who do not fear God.
5:2 The way of death is the way of those who persecute the good, hate the truth, love lies, and do not understand the reward for righteousness. They do not cleave to good or righteous judgment; they do not watch for what is good, but for what is evil. They are strangers to meekness and patience, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, without pity for the needy and oppressed. They do not know their Creator; they are murderers of children, destroyers of God's image. They turn away from those who are in need, making matters worse for those who are distressed. They are advocates for the rich, unjust judges of the poor. In a word, the way of death is full of those who are steeped in sin. Be delivered, children, from all of this!
For me, this is almost a commentary on American politics! Too much focus lately has been “advocat[ing] for the rich” with an equal “unjust judge[ment] of the poor.” I have read too many articles, blogs, and opinion pieces, that basically paint the poor as people who don’t deserve our help; that have chosen their lot in life; that are “milking the system;” who are “cancers of society” that need to be removed. All the while, those same writers don’t even bat an eye at how they treat animals or their spouses or their children. As long as things are fine in their world, well, quite literally, to hell with the rest of us. They are so busy “collecting treasures for [their] own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them” (Matthew 6.19 CEB) that they forget that other people are suffering. Either that, or they just really don’t care about them.
Also, there is the section of “pursuing revenge.” I don’t want to start trouble here but that is exactly what I feel about our so-called “justice” system - be it the “just-war theory” or our legal system. Most of the time, we aren’t looking for justice. We are looking for revenge. The way we declared “War on Terror” and became a terror ourselves is so telling. We are not seeking justice. We are told by Christ our Savior to love our enemies. Period. That does not mean to find ways of torturing them or killing them from a distance. We are told to forgive others as God forgives us. That does not mean murdering the families of our so-called enemies. We are told to love others as God loves us. To be merciful to them as God is merciful to us. James told us, “There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment” (James 2.13 CEB). These are not suggestions, friends. They are the ways in which we show that we are living as Christ in the world.
I know. Plenty of people are thinking that I’m being so naive. That sometimes you have to ‘stop the monster’ or the monster continues to win. Who says? Does God say that? Did Jesus say that? Did Jesus live that? If we are to be God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Word made flesh, then we need to start acting like it. We need to “have the mind of Christ.” We need to heed the words of St Paul, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature” (Romans 12.2 CEB). Don’t we get it? Haven’t we learned yet? Our actions must reflect “what is good and pleasing and mature.” If we “stop the monster” by the same way of the “monster” we have not figured out “what is good and pleasing and mature.” We have become the monster!
In this chapter, the community is stating that one must be different from the “patterns of this world.” We can’t live the same way. To live that way is to continue to live in death. And we can see the truth of that every day we pick up a newspaper (or read it digitally) or watch a news broadcast. With the tenth anniversary of September 11th tomorrow, and all of the television shows about that horrible event, we have to ask ourselves - Are we better or worse than before? Are we the same people? Do we still want revenge or are we working toward peace? Are we being ‘conformed to the patterns of this world’ or are we being transformed into people who make peace? Jesus said, “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children” (Matthew 5.9 CEB). We have to ask ourselves, “Are we being called God’s children?” If we are not, if our way of living is a mirror images of the “patterns of this world,” then, to quote the Didache: “Be delivered, children, from all this!”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC