I sat in church on a recent Sunday, musing at what I saw and felt around me. It had struck me what a nice bunch of folks these were around me. Well dressed and well mannered, nothing out of the ordinary or too extravagant. Predictable, orderly, not too dour or dull. Overall it was an utterly comfortable place to be.
The message had some fire in it. Not enough to cause a stir among the congregation mind you. Nevertheless, it was enough to elicit some "amenís". The Spirit moved in some, though not all. We sang praises to God, then drove to lunch.
It struck me in this scenario, replayed weekly, that so much of our spirituality is if not superficial, then at least dreadfully temporary. Perhaps it is even intentionally so. Are we really afraid to become fully the spirit filled creatures Christ has called us to be? Or is so much of our so-called spirituality a show for outward acceptance and inward peace of mind? Just enough to get by as it were.
As soon as church ends, we move onto other subjects without a hitch, perhaps even eagerly. Ball games, races, yard work, homework, just work; it seems these are our self induced cures against the dangers of a truly spiritual existence. We have become so very comfortable, so blessed, in this nation that we treat our true destiny as though it were a mere decoration. With so many distractions how can we hear the Voice that is within us? We let the roar of the crowd and the drudgery of daily life drown Him out.
It seems as though this fleeting spirituality we have adopted is very much a product of the comforts and false securities we have acquired. How can we contemplate our Eternal Father and Savior when we are busy with endless days of activity on earth? How can we savor the promises of Heaven when we are adding onto the house so that we can be happy here as though we would live forever on earth.
I know I will be accused by some of adopting asceticism as spirituality. It sounds like I am asking Christians to abandon all semblances of worldly goods in order have a more spiritual life. A sort of new monasticism if you will.
In fact that is not what I am advocating. I do not know the complete cure for this ill of the Church. It is quite possible that some individual would have to go to rather drastic measures in order to focus spiritually. I think that is the situation Jesus was referring to when he spoke of it being better to be maimed than to burn. Everyone need not go to this level. But some may have to in order to succeed. Others may never need to go so far. I have no panacea for this problem of apathetic spirituality.
What I am advocating is at the very least a new intentional focus on the Spirit. Plant your garden, build your rooms, plan your vacations. These are not in themselves bad. Do it however, with the idea firmly fixed that it is all part of a vast hotel. We are only passing through here. We live to serve God and others here, not ourselves. Our homes on earth are just places of rest, not places of retirement.
The notion of Christians being in a comfort zone is more than a spiritual concept. In a secondary sense it also points to the role of physical comforts in the Western world. The West, the US in particular, has been so incredibly blessed with worldly treasures that our physical comforts have blinded us to the desire for any spiritual improvement. We have bound ourselves up in physical devices and comforts to the point that we cannot function without them. In many cases they even take the place of human interaction.
This is especially a trick by the shadows upon our flawed nature. The devil is not a creator. He is a manipulator. A slave master. He cannot give us pleasures and comforts from his own hand. So instead he takes what is God-given, and inflames it in front of our flawed eyes to make it our supreme object of desire. The propaganda of darkness entices us to see the pleasures of God as the end of our desires and not God Himself.
We need to get into a whole new mind set. One that makes in not just an idle belief but a concrete fact of our lives that Jesus is Lord. We must focus our lives as a preparation for the next world. Only then can we make a true difference in this world by pointing souls to God and making life for them better while they are here.
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An excellent, thought-provoking article. I've had the same thoughts myself at times, but have to check myself before I start judging those around me. Before I take the speck of dust out of my neighbor's eye, I must take the log out of my own.
Great article! How sad it is to say that that American Christians do in fact need such a wake-up call.
Beautifully written, and very thought-provoking.