Our Inner Procrustus

There once was a great hero of Athens by the name of Theseus. A Greek adventurer who had many famous exploits and thought to have been a contemporary of Heracles, but you knew that already. A quick study of this fellow from Greek mythology may contribute to our better understanding of many areas of life: politics, theology, mankind in general. However, today I hope to apply a portion of his story to our lives as believers in Christ.

Hopefully, you won’t be put to sleep.

First, let me tell you about Theseus, in peanut form.

As a young man, Theseus grew up to be a strappingly strong, courageous and intelligent young member of society. Reared by his mother, his father was unknown to him. There was a secrecy surrounding the birth of Theseus and that for his own safety. He was heir to the throne in Athens and there were unsavory men who would kill him to maintain power in Athens.

The day came when the mother of Theseus decided it was time he knew about his father. Aethra, his mother, instructed him to go and move a very large rock, underneath which he would find two things left him by his father: a sword and a pair of shoes. After being told who is father was, Theseus decided to go to Athens and meet the man. But instead of taking the safe way to Athens, by ship, he decided to walk the precariously dangerous roads which, at the time, were filled with bandits and criminals of every sort.

Some not-so-funny things happened on the way to Athens. This was a time when there was no longer Hercules to hunt down and rid society of the bad guys, and in his absence, crime ruled the road from Peloponnesus to Athens. Men of low character, prideful men who felt “might made right” and looked down on the weaker specimens of humanity with a condescension that would have made the Pharisees of the first century blush.

Enter Procrustus. Theseus killed Procrustus. One of the bad guys on the way to Athens. Procrustus is an interesting character. This guy operated under the guise of hospitality, offering travelers a place for the night, he owned a tavern with a bed. He was fair. Anyone who needed a bed for the night got one. Fair, but not necessarily what you might have in mind.

You see, Procrustus had a plan which he carried out on numerous occasions. If, when you accepted his offer of hospitality, you didn’t fit his one bed, he cut off your feet, or your legs, depending on what it took for you to fit his bed. Oh, you got what you were promised, but certainly not what you wanted or expected.

Here it comes, ready?

In our Christian lives, we often operate under the guise of hospitality or well-being for another, while really, deep down, we desire others to adhere to our own version of Christianity.

In other words, under the guise of ‘for their own good’ we say or insist on certain behaviors or practices of what we believe are the proper practice and behavior of any real Christian.

Well, stop being a Procrustus.

Seriously. There is an inner Pharisee in all of us, looking down our own snobby, self-righteous noses, passing judgment on how others who profess to be in Christ should behave, act, live. We want to cut off the feet or legs of anyone who doesn’t fit our definition of what a Christian is. Or a missionary. Whatever.

Get over yourself. You know who you are.

You are me.

You are any Christian who ever desired to make less of others’ mustard-seed faith because you had a bed of reasoning where only you decided who fit the sheets.

You are the Publican.

You are the missionary who, in your own mind, cornered the market on the Great Commission.

You are the hypocrite extraordinaire.

You are the one who tells those of small faith that their knowledge of God is not worth two cents in heaven if they don’t act, believe or pray like you do.

You are the one who would take a God-given faith of a young person and hammer them with expectations of your own making and behave as if your words were the Word of God itself.

You would, if you had your own way, under the guise of Christianity, under the guise of holiness and conformity to Christ, lop off legs of faith of another to fit a bed you call Christianity, one of your own making and out of pride, that others do not fit.

Procrustus, of mythology, offered travelers rest, but mutilated them.

Christians, and preachers of the Christian faith, often do the same.

Stop it.