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Collateral Consequences

The other day in my study, I came across this statement made by Francis de Sales to a young woman Philothea:

“Slander is a kind of murder since we have three kinds of life: the spiritual life consists in the grace of God, the bodily life depends on the soul, and the social life consists in reputation. Sin takes away the first, death deprives us of the second, and slander strips us of the third. With a single stroke of his tongue, the slanderer usually commits three murders. He kills his own soul and that of the one who listens to him by a spiritual homicide, and the other by destruction of his reputation.”[1]

I am think Francis stretched the spiritual homicide idea but he is absolutely correct to understand our action always have a multiple of consequences, evil will always seek to do as much damage as possible to as many people as possible.

The journey which is focused on the words “Well done good and faithful servant” has for its goal is a journey seeking the will of God. This is not an easy journey. Jesus himself spoke such a warning. “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. (Matt. 7:13 CSB) and of course one of the most quote text for struggle, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  (Lk. 14:27 ESV)

On this difficult journey we are going to make mistakes. Hopeful through experience, education, prayer, faith-building activity, growing older, and a lot of grace we try hard to minimize the damage our actions do to others. We understand there can be spiritual consequences to what we do. In the past the church was able to help in setting ethical standards and a social structure to help protect and maintain the community in its life-giving efforts so that the effect of sin and death were not as socially destructive, but those days are gone. As Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, “The church is in a buyer’s market that makes any attempt to form a disciplined congregational life very difficult.”[2]

Therefore, it is all the more important to develop our own spiritual practices and take responsibility for our own spiritual maturity. Also, we need to seek to find others to form a voluntary community connected in non-traditional ways. The true church has never been an organization or building.

It is good to read the master spiritual directors of the past. Their words have a way of transcending time and are very relevant for our age.


[1] de Sales, St. Francis. Introduction to the Devout Life (p. 173). Opened Heart Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.

[2] Hauerwas, Stanley. Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics, and Life . Eerdmans. Kindle Edition

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