Live Rightly

 In Earl McClure, Preaching & Teaching, Uncategorized

“Short then is the time which every man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives; and short to the longest posthumous fame.”

These lines were written by Marcus Aurelius, emperor of the Roman Empire from 161-180 A.D., in his work Meditations (Kindle e-book, book 3, paragraph 10). Aurelius was neither Jew nor Christian but there is some similarity between his words and Judeo-Christian writings: “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4, Jewish); “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14, Christian). We should recognize that our time on this earth is limited. In addition to his career as emperor, Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher who desired to live rightly: “Where a man can live, there he can also live well. But he must live in a palace; – well then, he can also live well in a palace” (Meditations, book 5, paragraph 16). Again, his words echo Jewish and Christian thought: “None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:16, Jewish); “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12, Christian). So during our time “in the present age” we should live rightly.

While there is some similarity in Marcus’ writings and Judeo-Christian writings, he was no defender of Christians during his reign. However, Aurelius’ philosophy to live rightly can be an encouragement for Christians today. Paul said, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). We all live in a particular season, in a particular place, with particular roles and responsibilities. Except for my time away at college, I have lived my entire life in the Dayton area (my small nook). We all have our sphere of influence, whether a small nook or a large stage. There is no guarantee about tomorrow or if we will be remembered after we die. Aurelius would undoubtedly be astounded that his words can be quoted almost two thousand years after his death. Perhaps our words will also live on long after we are gone. However, regardless of lifespan, location, or position, we can all make a decision to live rightly. Paul also said, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:17-18). Our lifestyle and our behaviors are choices we make every moment of every day.

And guess what? Living rightly is an influence in itself; doing the right thing is a legacy that will live on after us. We can never know in what ways our words or actions have had an influence on others, so choose to live rightly for the glory of God.


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