Perhaps one reason that many folks balk against Christian spirituality is that it has sadly become for many something for the next life but not for the present. Francis Schaeffer aptly understood this concept three decades before us, and has put these thoughts into words in A Christian Manifesto. I began reading this book at the beginning of the week and am nearly half way through. I want to share myintitial thoughts with you because I know this is going to be a new one on my list of “highly-influential books”.
Schaeffer begins the fourth chapter by saying, “Spirituality to the evangelical leadership often has not included the Lordship of Christ over the whole spectrum of life. Spirituality has often been shut up to a very narrow area.” This narrow area Schaeffer alludes to is the idea that a call to revival among Christians ends with personal salvation. Schaeffer says that indeed this is a truncated revival if it does not then lead to some form of action, namely social action. Spirituality is truncated if it ends with the self, with one’s own personal salvation. This is of course, central to what it is to be a Christian. We are defined as such through being reconciled to our Creator through the death of Jesus on our behalf. But if we end there, we are as the Apostle James says in his letter to the church, “like people who look at their face in a mirror, and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like” (James 1:23-24).
I want to be careful here because it is easy to confuse what I am trying to say with the idea that maybe Christian spirituality is a stepping stone to something else. The main goal of Christianity is for people to be in a relationship with the Creator, but it is so easy to relegate this relationship to “just me and Jesus” and to lose sight of the world around us. So if spirituality is a stepping stone to anything, let it be God. But don’t let spirituality be just a stepping stone; let it be the journey every step of the way.
What Schaeffer says at the very beginning of the book is a remarkable observation. Before the first paragraph is finished, he has clearly laid out what he believes to be wrong with this form of spirituality. He says that the problem, especially as it relates to how Christians view and think about government and society (and I would add all of life), is that we often see things in “bits and pieces instead of totals.” The ensuing chapter explains what he means by this. One thing that we would all do well to remember when considering spirituality—whether you are a Christian or not—is the idea that “True spirituality covers all of reality […] there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual.” I think this brings us back to why I began writing this.
As I have been reading the first half of this book, I have been reminded of how often I push my own spiritual life to the side as I go about my day to day living. At some point I begin to feel that familiar ache of realizing that there is something missing from my routine, and that is caused my complete failure to bring my relationship with God into everything I’m doing. I get up in the morning without so much as thankfulness for another day of life. I drive to work thinking about what I have to do that day, not thinking about the fact that I am traveling on a planet created by a personal God who is still involved in what is going on. I pass people on the street without being affected by the truth that they are so much more than just matter glued together by some mysterious force, that their emotions and problems run much deeper than the chemical reaction in their brains (although these certainly do exist!). And I do all of this without so much as a thought to what my God may have to say to me about my day if I would just take a little time to listen.
And so today as I read chapter four during lunch, I was humbly reminded of my foolishness in seeing myself wholely at one point and then walking away and very quickly forgetting what that whole version of me looks like. I don’t want to live life in a shell of a being but want to be a full being who allows my relationship with my God to affect so much more than just my time at church or community group. I want to walk away from the mirror not only remembering what the whole me looks like, but I also want to remember the whole Truth and live each moment in light of that truth rather than in the shadow of the bits and pieces.
Now it’s your turn. I would really love to hear from you on what you think about spirituality—whether yours is that of those who follow Jesus or not. Do you agree with me or does what I wrote upset you? Does it even make sense? I know this isn’t the typical “Here is what I sewed today” kind of post, but if “all of reality is spiritual”, then why not include a discussion of it right here?!