I try to live as a monk. Why?
It turns out I’m pretty much able to bear the burden of being a eunuch for the Kingdom (Matthew 19, not literally). It turns out that I love living a life with a lot of deliberate song, prayer, and devotion in it. Monks have been writers and preservers of literature and culture for a long time.
I am not a CLOISTERED monk. That means that I do not live in a monastery. My “cell” is a simple bed in my apartment, which has all the necessary things in life. (A computer with a Bible on it, a mattress, and a practice sword.) But I do not want to move to a lonely mountain and chant by myself.
Because Hebrews 3:12-13 commands me to daily exhort others so that they do not die. Because I am convinced that life means loving others (1 John 4:19-21), which is impossible to do on the other side of a fifty foot wall and a hundred miles from your friends (Proverbs 27:10) . Because I want others to be with me, near me, and share in fellowship with me therefore I am commanded to be with them, near them, and share in fellowship with them. Because cloister walls stand between me and those in need. Because cloister walls would make people misunderstand.
But I am a monk, therefore I am a warrior.
“But wait, Mr. Monk, you’re mixing your metaphors! I thought you were a Lutheran so you have to be a Western monk. AND you aren’t supposed to be a violent man. AND you’re supposed to love peace. AND…”
1] Misconception: Oriental monks were martial artists and European monks were wusses. FALSE. Western Monks, particularly in Great Britain, were famously good wrestlers. In the vocabulary of the time that meant unarmed combat, boxing, and at least one weapon but usually both quarterstaff and sword. My personal favorite monk of all time, an Irish prince who got exiled for copying the Bible without permission had an assassin come to kill him while he was a fourteen-year-old student in the monastery. The assassin locked himself in with Colum, who grabbed the candlesticks from the altar and kung-fu’d the @#$% out of the grown, armed, assassin, who died. THAT is the sort of monk I want to be. When he converted Scottland to Christianity later he established a monastery that would survive 3 viking raids, whereas the monastery in Lindisfarne was totally destroyed. (Bad-assery.) I also point out to you that in the original Robin Hood stories, Friar Tuck opens a can on Robin the first time they meet. It was really only after the NORMAN conquest of England that you start hearing about helpless monks who just sit back and get slaughtered for Jesus.
2] I am a monk, but just because I have no plans to ever boink or marry does not mean I am not a man, and men are called to be warriors. Not all men are called to be soldiers (though the Old Testament Israel pretty much did call everyone from their teens through the age of fifty to train and serve in battle). Most people skip over the fact that God IS a mighty warrior, and we are in the process of being made like God. They don’t do much with the idea that God trains our hands to war, that “Be still and know that I AM God” is in the context of God stepping into the battle and shattering weapons left and right. We don’t make too much emphasis on the fact that Jesus had 10,000 troops waiting for immediate deployment, or that when he comes again it will be as an irresistible conqueror.
3] I am a warrior in pursuit of peace. The Bible is full, FULL of times when peace came on the other side of a good butt whooping. Moreover, if you are strong enough to kick butt, you have peace because no one wants to mess with you in the first place. Finally, it is God’s strength to protect that makes his sheltering arms the comfort that they are. After surviving a mosh pit at an underground Christian punk rock show in downtown Cleveland, a pair of women got to their car in peace because they trusted that no one was going to mess with the two-hundred-thirty pound warrior in the freshly-ripped clothing. They had peace. They got home safely. The Church’s sanctuary meant something when the church’s walls would not be breached without starting a war.
4] Um… I love Kung Fu….
References for those who don’t want to go surfing through their Bible Today.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. -Hebrews 3:12-13c
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -1 John 4:19-21