Sunday, August 28, 2011

“Compulsion is repugnant to God.”

Today's readings were Exodus 3:1-15, parts of Psalm 105, Romans 12:9-21, and Matthew 16:21-28.

The reading from Matthew contained the line: "you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

I thought about that last night as we watched endless news reporting on the latest hurricane, Irene, when one news station posed the question, "Does anyone remember the storm of 1938?" I kept thinking about all the storms and natural disasters that seem to fade all too quickly from memory.

With the anniversary of 9/11/2001 coming up, I thought to myself, "How long will it be before that also becomes a distant memory much like Pearl Harbor day, or Armistice Day, or August 24, 1814?"

Yet we still remember an event, little noticed at the time, that occured 2000 years ago. What makes that piece of history so endearing to us that it is burned into our hearts and minds so strongly that even our natural tendency to forget is defeated?

Are we being forced to remember? Are we compelled to come to God, and what holds us together with Him once we have accepted Him?

As a teenager, I grew to dread Sunday mornings and being made to get up and go to church. Like many others, I was one of those who had to be persuaded to step away from my world and to give up all those thoughts of self in order to open my heart and soul to the saving power of Jesus.

It just so happened that the following sermon popped up on my reading list today,

..."In a sense, God presents the sight of the burning bush in order to persuade Moses to agree to this task. When dealing with human beings, even God – our Creator – works by persuasion and not by compulsion.

Consider the so-called 'Mandatory Evacuations' that have been in place over the last few days along the east coast. They are called 'mandatory' but I’ll bet that you’ve seen folks interviewed who have decided to stay put in some coastal town. Thankfully, it seems that our government authorities are not able to force people to live. And that is as it should be.

St. Clement of Alexandria is reputed to have written this axiom of deep truth: 'Compulsion is repugnant to God.' It is repugnant to God and it is also repugnant to human beings!"...
Read the rest over at the Father Ferrell Post.


  1. Spot-on. That's what I tell people who insist that my God is also the god of jihad. What is it about "if they don't listen, shake the dust from your sandals" that people don't get.


  2. Yeah, "Obey or die" is a whole lot different than "Obey and live."

  3. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Just some thoughts regarding Fr. Ferrell's commentary, and being compelled.
    I think it could also be said, in a sense, the burning bush came into being in order to grab Moses' attention (that is, to be sensate).
    That would satisfy the argument of persuasion, rather than contrasting with compulsion.

    None the less, Clement's quote comes from his "Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?", an attempt to oppose those who read Jesus' call to actually go and sell everything, but rather justify what one commenter said was "the disposition of the soul is the great essential."
    This would be quite typical of Clement who taught from his earlier philosophical training and skill regarding the soul, and in the case of Christians, the perfect soul. Thus to compel, to "make someone do something" no longer logically has a virtuous value. That would be enough for Clement, who had a tendency in his writing to get a bit tendentious, overly exertive, to then state, "Compulsion is repugnant to God."

    But that would just be for the sake of the argument. Clement was extravagant in making references, both OT and NT, and secular. It is difficult to imagine that he would not also have been cognizant of Acts 20:22 or even 2 Cor 5:13, for the compelling work of the Spirit, and that, in fact, God does use compulsion at times.

    Still, even in situations where the events are actually compelling (whether God made them that way or not), why is it that getting human beings to act accordingly is like herding cats?

  4. Thanks Rob+,

    I guess some of us need a bit more persuasion (like a burning bush or a push in the right direction) than others.