“To serve the divine spirit which is implanted within him, a man must keep himself pure from all violent passions and evil affections, from all rashness and vanity, and from all manner of discontent, either in regard of the gods or men. Unwavering courtesy and consideration are his aims. ‘Whatsoever any man doth or saith, thou must be good. Doth any man offend? It is against himself that he doth offend: why should it trouble thee?’ The offender needs pity, not wrath; those who must needs be corrected, should be treated with tact and gentleness; and one must be always ready to learn better. The best kind of revenge s not to become like unto them.’ … Thus the emperor faithfully carries out his own principle, that evil must be overcome with good.” ~ Marcus Cornelius Fronto (quoting from Marcus Aurelius)
A Spiritual Emperor
To most of us today, it is surprising to hear of a spiritual and moral king or emperor. Our books, movies, and TV shows are full of the other kind. The violent conquerors make good movies with lots of blood and gore. The ones who were sexual perverts and predators, even more interesting. The good guys among them make boring stories, so are largely ignored. Yet they existed. We probably would not have a somewhat civilized world today if we didn’t. While the Caligula’s and Nero’s pushed us back to primitivism, folks like Marcus Aurelius pulled and back, and moved us forward. Aurelius is sometimes called “the last of the five good emperors.” so it isn’t so rare after all.
Still, there is more to Marcus Aurelius than simply being a good emperor who cared for his people. He was a spiritual person who say the need for spiritual development as more important than physical development.
Aurelius says that we must keep ourselves pure if we want to “serve the divine spirit.” He says we do that by avoiding evil passions, rashness, vanity, and discontent. That’s a lot to avoid and not easy given the nature of material man. It is usually something we have to work on gradually over years. Even then, we are rarely free of those things entirely.
“Why should I want to serve the Divine?” some will ask. The answer is simple. If you are an apprentice electrician, you serve the master electrician without question. It is how you learn and grow. The same thing for carpenters, plumbers, and other kinds of apprentices. This serving of the one with greater knowledge should not be thought of as slavery. It isn’t that. I t is simply working for another, which most of us do in the material world anyway. As God is the master of all things spiritual, naturally He is the one we should serve if we wish to be spiritual people. The other reason we should choose to be a divine servant is because there is only one alternative. In this world, we either serve God or we serve the Devil. Those are the only choices available to us. If you think you have chosen to serve no one, you have chosen by default to serve the devil.
The Offender offends Himself
Aurelius also tells us that if another says or does something that offends us in some way, we should not respond in kind. If we we, we become like the offender and have no reason to complain about his behavior. The other reason Aurelius gives is because the one who offends really is offending himself.
Many find that hard to accept. Let’s look at specific examples. Over the past few decades, there have been several cases where preachers and politicians who spoke out against gay rights were later found to be gay themselves, or to be engaging in some other form of offensive sex such as pedophilia. Experts say that this should not surprise anyone. Very often the things a person finds unacceptable is others are the very things he dislikes about himself.
Another example can be found in President Trump. He loves to say offensive and insulting things about other people. No person or group is immune to his childish insults except the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacist groups. But his primary accomplishment in doing all this insulting is making himself look like a fool to the rest of the world.
And those who reply to the Trumpery with insults and divisive remarks of their own accomplish little. So Be a divine servant and don’t insult other. Also, don’t let the offensive and materialistic people get you down or make you act like them. As a divine servant, we must be tolerant and forgiving.