The Legacy of John Hus - page 5


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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Legacy of John Hus

by Tom Schwanda,  Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College

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 Fourth, another important challenge from Hus concerns cultivating the spiritual life. He would have been shocked to discover our contemporary gap in understanding between the nominal term Christian and a disciple who seriously dedicates his or her life to following Jesus.20 Speaking to one of his closest friends and supporters, Hus exhorted him to “firmly and steadfastly love the Lord Jesus Christ,” noting that Christ suffered and provided this as an example in following Him. After citing, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23 ESV), Hus frankly confessed something that any honest disciple recognizes: “O most kind Christ, draw us weaklings after Thyself, for unless Thou draw us, we cannot follow Thee!”21
 Jesus’ earthly years serve as a model; believers are to “follow Christ’s life in poverty, purity, humility.” Realizing the realities of persecution for the truth, he writes less than a month before his death: “Do not fear to die for Christ if you wish to live with Christ.” Similarly Hus asserted, “It is better to die well than to live wickedly.”22 Given the unrestrained immorality and corruption among some priests and other church leaders, Hus’s emphasis on following the Ten Commandments is understandable. Whether he is writing to priests or lay people, he exhorts all to “live a devout and holy life.”23
 Additionally Hus, reminiscent of Jesus, warns against constructing the exterior of your house without similar attention to your soul. This is reinforced by the ethical mandate “that if you are a builder of a spiritual building, [be] kind to the poor and humble.”24
 Beyond the continual message of reading Scripture and seeking to live out that truth, Hus mentions the importance of praying devoutly, especially using the Psalms, to cultivate the spiritual life.25 Hus is also pastoral and realistic when he writes that the Christian life is a journey: “Always keep in mind what you are, what you were, and what you will be.”26
 Fifth, Hus would be very quick to warn us of the reality of temptation. Many people seem unaware of the formative nature of culture. We naively think that our environment is neutral when actually it is continually shaping us in ways that are typically opposed to the gospel. Hus preached against seeking wealth for its own sake and ignoring the needs of the poor. In writing to an unnamed monk, he reminded him that “the basic rule for clerics concerning the owning of property, particularly those who have vows, is to possess all things in common, according to Acts 2: ‘They had all things in common.’” In the same letter, he marshals support from “blessed Bernard” [of Clairvaux] who declared: “A monk owning a farthing, is not worth a farthing.”27 The Bohemian reformer reveals his pastoral wisdom in writing to two friends. He first counsels them to perceive “how the wheel of worldly vanity spins.” Initially it may lift a person with the fleeting pleasures of sin but soon after crushes that person to destruction that can, if unchecked, lead to “eternal torment in fire and darkness.”28
 Often Hus would speak of the three traditional categories of the world, the flesh, and the devil and the necessity for Christians to be vigilant and persevere in the face of such seductive temptations. On other occasions he was more explicit in naming specific temptations. For example, in an epistle to an unknown priest, Hus counsels him to preach fervently “against debauchery, for that is the most ferocious beast which devours men for whom Christ’s humanity suffered” and that further he should “guard himself against fornication.” He concludes this letter on spiritual combat by declaring: “Whatever you do, fear God and keep His commandments. You will thus walk rightly and not perish, tame the flesh, spurn the world, vanquish Satan, put on God, find life, confirm others.”29 Hus learned this personally, through the school of affliction, that suffering and temptation can arise at any moment. Among other things, he faced the heart-wrenching sense of betrayal when some of his one-time close friends in his ministry became his most vociferous accusers at Constance. Throughout his varied experiences, Hus always placed his hope in God. Writing to his close associate just two weeks before his execution, Hus affirmed: “God almighty will strengthen the hearts of His faithful whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world that they may receive the unfading crown of glory.”30

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