Christian Spirituality: Ways of Experiencing God (Part 3)

Reflection: Matthew 5: 21 – 48; Luke 14: 25 – 15: 32; John 12: 24.

Scripture makes it crystal clear that our experience of God is unquestionably always on His terms. His Laws make it undisputedly evident that His holiness cannot be presumed upon. And whether we are consciously aware of it changes nothing, even how we relate to Him. Our determined focus on our daily responsibilities (family, work, and all else earthy) often subverts this most holy of communion in Christ, depriving us of joy and frustrating His consistent initiatives in desiring a two-way fellowship with us. But does it need to be this way?

Jesus expected of His followers to make a radical transformational approach to life when they commit themselves to Him. But not everyone is comfortable with His stance on life (Mark 10:17-22; John 6:41-69). Christian spirituality is not a pious posture or a technique to be switched on-and-off at our convenience, nor can it fit comfortably into our life without changing the whole. His practical faith standards spelt out in the Gospels are quite unnerving as we encounter them. For instance, “If anyone comes after Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children… even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26), right away ruffles our feathers, as Jesus juxtaposes the priority of family ties and our own life with allegiance to Him and His cause. This statement is not entirely disagreeable, but its outworking is profoundly thought-provoking, as it is humanly impossible to accomplish. How does a verse like Luke 14:26 draw us out, forcing us to count the cost, and yet owning up to say with all honesty, that we do love Him above all else? Perhaps, at the experiential level, when we do love someone close to the way He loves us, the scrupulosity of our thoughts and actions pale into insignificance, and conceivably this may be where our individual specific ‘blind spots,’ when confronted, become avenues for a Divine transformational change. Together with intentionality, it may not be difficult to conclude that it is the Holy Spirit who will eventually mediate and empower us to obey Him on the basis of His sacrifice (John 3:16-21; 16:13-15). Otherwise, we also cannot explain the secured peace in martyrdom that so many had experienced throughout church history.

“Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48) poses the question in context, is it worthwhile, tongue in cheek, even to begin to try to be perfect (all-embracing, without any limitation) in every personal relational circumstance? Don’t give up though. And “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Mark 10:15), startles us back into a psychologically daunting task, no matter how the verse has been exegeted, of how to simply obey like a child as an adult! Many other verses equally challenge us. Hence, Christian spirituality is not regarded as a state or a static position that we acquire when we trust Him, but a dynamic growth process empowered by the Holy Spirit, Who will change us into the imago Dei, by becoming more human in our inner and outer life. Possibly, the heart of Christian spirituality is our spiritual (Holy Spirit) transformation into witnessing reflections of our Lord, whether spoken or unspoken, to others; THAT would change the world (John 12:24).