“Oh no... I don't believe in works at all” he said. “I just believe that the sin we do is on one side, and the good things we do are on the other, and we hope the good outweighs or at least reduces the bad side!” “ Hmm Sounds like works to me” as I waded a little deeper into this businessman's line of thinking. “Oh no! not works at all, I just think our good works make it easier for God to love us, makes us more acceptable”. This fellow is a wonderful man who attends a church in our community.
It seems that within the same sentence he contradicts himself but this is not as unique a situation as we may expect. This happens in the lives of many people - we say we believe something and our lives demonstrate something entirely different. We as Christians are excellent at speaking out of both sides of our mouths. I am haunted by a quote from an old DC Talk Cd that says “the biggest cause of atheism in the world is Christians. They profess Him with their mouth and deny Him with their lives.” This is not an intentional attempt at deceit rather a product of how we have learned faith. Sadly, whether we realize it our not, it seems the Christian faith is reduced to a series of intellectual assents to doctrine, being a member of a particular club, giving money to the club and supporting the programs of the club by attending, while it not always having any real implication on family life, work life / school life – real life. Generally, it fits into a neat religious box, and the Jesus we put in our religious box doesn't connect us to life at all.
I use a computer for a lot of my work. Every once in a while it is necessary to run a defrag (in my pre-Mac days) to get like-files positioned with like-files and to clean up program paths that are no longer used. If you don't, your computer slows down and will crash as it goes racing along a command string to find it connected to nothing, a dead end. Then you get freeze-ups and crashes! So it is in many of our lives. Limited connectedness that manifests a lack of wholeness – freeze-ups and crashes! Like the computer, we group like thoughts together (though they may be stored in different areas of the brain). These thoughts are accessed and connected with other experiences that are meaningful and relevant. Often these trains of thought are very compartmentalized and seldom do the thoughts of one compartment influence the others unless we train them too.
It often seems we have our home box, work box, school box, club box and our religious box. Everything has it's place, and it's ordered and is scheduled to manage a very busy and pressurized life. Many of us struggle to integrate effectively our faith life and the rest of life. We often struggle under the obligations of some form of rule-keeping but generally many do not see any real implications of their faith on making the mortgage payment, relating with friends, disciplining a child, passing a course or closing a big deal. Religious rule keeping doesn't cut it because real life isn't so black and white. Often we fudge the lines on a superficial level to make some sort of connection between the two but in general, compartmentalized thinking is actually a barrier to wholeness.
Just as a computer has an operating system (O.S.) to tell it how to process and access the files or boxes of information, so do we in a sense. Our operating system (worldview) is built upon our culture, our experiences (good or bad) and our deep values and belief about the world, other people and ourselves. This forms areas like our identity, our significance and sense of well-being. It is in this place that fear resides, rejection, anger and of course love, creativity, etc. Your operating system will affect the way you interpret what happens to you, the way you will group information, the way you will remember events and how you will interact or connect with the compartments of your life. It influences how you interact with the world, with Jesus and others. If you are fearful, this will taint how you interpret everything in life as you seek to protect yourself. If we are longing for authentic love, this will affect how you behave to satisfy that longing. Likewise, if, in your heart of hearts, you see God as mostly angry, cold and distant, this will affect the way you see yourself, your relationship with Him and the rest of the world. I am not talking about what our religious box will say about God, what we parrot. I am talking about what we REALLY believe about God and this will be revealed in how we actually live our real lives.
An un-integrated faith will not affect our O.S., the core of who we are. Jesus is not another compartment to our lives; He is healing our operating system. This happens as we release Him from the religious box and through intimate relationship allow Him access to the very deepest places of our hearts - into the shadows of our hearts where the hurt, the lies, and fear reside. Jesus brings the light of His love and dissipates the shadows bringing healing to those hurts, dispel the lies and with Divine love casts out fear. This is not an intellectual process as much as it is a growing relationship. A fuller and growing understanding of who Jesus is and what He actually did (and does) for us separate from the hype. This relationship cannot be experienced transformationally from a box.
1) We all have a worldview, a set of lenses to interpret life is through.
2) We need to be open to the fact our worldview may have some blind spots. Understanding that we probably have a few blind spots will open us to consider other points of view. This is a posture of humility not indiscriminate acceptance of every idea as equally valid.
3) We need to recognize that we are whole people and all of life - church, work, school, family, relationships - are spiritual so our faith relationship with Jesus is relevant.
4) Consider what it might mean to live your work, play, school, and relationships spiritually. Are there aspects of your life that it never have occurred to you that they may be spiritual? How will this discovery change how you live in that area?
The spiritual life is first of all a life.
It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived. Like all life, it grows sick and dies when it is uprooted from its proper element. Grace is engrafted on our nature and the whole person is sanctified by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual life is not, therefore, a life entirely uprooted from the human condition and transplanted into the realm of the angels. We live as spiritual people when we live as people seeking God. If we are to become spiritual, we must remain human. And if there were not evidence of this everywhere in theology, the Mystery of the Incarnation itself would be ample proof of it. Why did Christ become Man if not to save us by uniting us mystically with God through his own sacred humanity? Jesus lived the ordinary life of the people of his time, in order to sanctify the ordinary lives of people of all time. If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere….
To keep ourselves spiritually alive we must constantly renew our faith. We are like pilots of fog-bound steamers, peering into the gloom in front of us, listening for the sounds of other ships, and we can only reach our harbour if we keep alert. The spiritual life is, then, first of all a matter of keeping awake. We must not lose our sensitivity to spiritual inspirations. We must always be able to respond to the slightest warnings that speak, as though by a hidden instinct, in the depths of the soul that is spiritually alive.
~ Thomas Merton