We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, January 6, 2014

Focusing On the Things of the Spirit

Romans 8:1-8 teaches among other things that if we follow Christ by focusing on the things of the Spirit that same Spirit will work through us to the end that that we will have life and peace.  One practical question this raises is how do we do this.  Focusing on the Spirit is not only a matter of engaging in certain practices.  It also requires a certain level of insight into "the things of the Spirit," which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Focusing on the things of the Spirit, means seeking to live a life filled with these qualities, which taken together are the fruit of the Spirit.

Our intention thus is not to demonstrate a certain level of piety or impress others with our spirituality, knowledge of the Bible, or goodness.  It is not to pursue or promulgate a certain ideological or theological position.  It is not an ego trip.  Our goal, rather, is to live a life grounded in the fruit of the Spirit.

Over the centuries, our Christian traditions have variously developed a technology for focusing on the Spirit that includes most importantly prayer and meditation, the study of the Bible, fellowship with other Christians, and intentional service of others.  There are other techniques such as fasting or going on pilgrimage that we might call upon, but these four stand at the heart of our pursuit of life and peace in the Spirit.  Still more to the point, the goal our prayer and meditation, Bible study, fellowship, and service is not ultimately life and peace for us alone or even primarily.  The goal is life and peace for family, friends, colleagues, our community, and our world.  The thing is we cannot share with others what we do not have ourselves.  Amen.