Those of us in the world might not think this section of the rule applies to us. But when you think about it, the vast majority of us have authority and responsibility that is very similar to an Abbot's in some portion of our life. Pastors serve in ways like this role in their congregations. Parents are the abbot's of their children, at least when the children are young. Those in the work place frequently have authority over other workers.
No matter the part of our life where we serve as abbots, we are watched. All parents know that their children are watching them constantly. They'll notice any inconsistency between what we say and what we do. When they find it, and they will find it, they pounce on it.
It is the same way with pastors in their congregations. How many of us preach and act in the same way for every moment of our lives? And for all Christians, those in the pre-Christian world are always measuring us against the teachings of Jesus. When we stray from those teachings they rightly call us hypocrites. Unfortunately they also use our actions as an excuse to exclude the Way from their spiritual search.
Most of us are inconsistent people. But despite our inconsistencies I think we can attempt to follow Benedict's teachings. There's a story told by Herbert Prochnow that illustrates what I mean.
"A stranger came walking along the dusty road, opened the gate, walked up the path to the door of the farmhouse and knocked. The farmer’s wife answered the door. She expected to see a neighborhood friend, but it was a stranger standing there.
He asked, 'Does God live here?’ The woman was perplexed and dumbfounded. She didn’t answer. Again the stranger asked, 'Does God live here?' But the woman was so confused she again couldn’t answer. For a third time the man asked, 'Does God live here?’ And again, there was no answer, Instead the woman slammed the door, and ran out of the back door. The man shook his head, turned and walked away.
After he was gone, the woman ran into the barn, where her husband was working, and excitedly told him of the strange visitor. He blustered and floundered for words until he finally said, 'Well, didn’t you tell him we belong to church?’ 'No,’ answered the woman,'that wasn’t what he asked.’"
Benedict asks those in the position of abbot to live in a way that shows to others that Jesus lives in us; a way that demonstrates that God does live here. Can we be perfect at this? No, we aren't Jesus. But we can measure our actions by the way Jesus acted, and when we slip, we can turn around and begin again to live like God does indeed live in us.