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The Last

Saving the best until last was a lesson I learned very early on in my childhood when I’d eaten all the yummy things on my plate and was left with a pile of mashed potato. So in my SWOT Vac I motivated myself for Old Testament and New Testament by leaving Church History to the end (not that the former two aren’t good, but Church History is definitely best!) And what a joy it has been! Today’s lesson comes from Ambrose.

Saving the best until last was a lesson I learned very early on in my childhood when I’d eaten all the yummy things on my plate and was left with a pile of mashed potato. So in my SWOT Vac I motivated myself for Old Testament and New Testament but leaving Church History to the end (not that the former two aren’t good, but Church History is definitely best!) And what a joy it has been! Today’s lesson comes from Ambrose.
So imagine that you’re at the general election for Archbishop. These are contentious times, the church has been in trouble with splits and factions and this appointment could make or break things. It’s so controversial that Kevin Rudd has shown up just to make sure that things don’t get out of hand, but suddenly, child cries out, “Kevin Rudd for bishop!” and the cry is taken up all around the hall. Lo and behold, he’s elected, even though you’re not sure where he stands on the contentious issue splitting the church.
This is what happened to Ambrose, who was the governor of Milan when, upon walking into the elections was duly elected bishop. While he was thought to be a Christian, no one was really sure where he stood! In fact, he had to be baptised in order to be priested in order to be bishoped, all in the space of a week!
I’m no proponent of new Christians being put into leadership – I think I’ll go with Paul on that one – so why do I think Ambrose was so great? The reason I like Ambrose is the seriousness with which he took his office. Having been elected bishop, he not only gave up his wealth for the ascetic (monk-like) lifestyle, he also made it his business to learn the word of God that he might be able to speak on the contentious issue of the day, Arianism. Likewise, he gave his first and full loyalty to God’s church. He refused to be influenced by emperors, he ran excellent poverty relief programs, he condemned injustice when he saw it, and he worked hard at both sound doctrine (in his writings) and engaging the heart (in his hymn writing).
Why is Ambrose such a good example to us? It’s certainly not because of his inexperience! But it’s because he recognised his inexperience and had two reactions. The first was that he set out to equip himself that he might be a good bishop. The second is that he committed himself to the task given to him and the people under his care with great fervor. This is a man who refused to be paralysed by his own inadequacy, but who took his job seriously, caring for God’s people diligently and fulfilling his obligations conscientiously. Though he may not have known it at the time, he was God’s man for the job and he committed himself to being so. What valour! What strength of character! Would that the last words said of us would be Ambrose’s: “I will never betray the church of Christ.” 

So imagine that you’re at the general election for Archbishop. These are contentious times, the church has been in trouble with splits and factions and this appointment could make or break things. It’s so controversial that Kevin Rudd has shown up just to make sure that things don’t get out of hand, but suddenly, child cries out, “Kevin Rudd for bishop!” and the cry is taken up all around the hall. Lo and behold, he’s elected, even though you’re not sure where he stands on the contentious issue splitting the church.

This is what happened to Ambrose, who was the governor of Milan when, upon walking into the elections was duly elected bishop. While he was thought to be a Christian, no one was really sure where he stood! In fact, he had to be baptised in order to be priested in order to be bishoped, all in the space of a week!

I’m no proponent of new Christians being put into leadership – I think I’ll go with the apostle Paul on that one – so why do I think Ambrose was so great? The reason I like Ambrose is the seriousness with which he took his office. Having been elected bishop, he not only gave up his wealth for the ascetic (monk-like) lifestyle, he also made it his business to learn the word of God that he might be able to speak on the contentious issue of the day, Arianism. Likewise, he gave his first and full loyalty to God’s church. He refused to be influenced by emperors, he ran excellent poverty relief programs, he condemned injustice when he saw it, and though he didn’t always succeed, he worked hard at both sound doctrine (in his writings) and engaging the heart (in his hymn writing).

Why is Ambrose such a good example to us? It’s his valor, that he refused to be paralysed by his own inadequacy. And it’s his character, that he took his job seriously, caring for God’s people diligently and fulfilling his obligations conscientiously. Though he may not have known it at the time, he was God’s man for the job and he committed himself to being so. Could the same be said of you, of me?  What will be our ‘last thing’? Could we say, like Ambrose, “I have not lived so amongst you that I need be ashamed to live; nor do I fear to die, for we have a good Lord”?

Categories: History Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

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