Practical Spirituality.

When we discuss what makes up true spirituality often the lay person will think in terms of esoteric knowledge or religious piety. The image in peoples minds is of a monk closeted in a bare room with hair shirt and bread and water for food! Or, an itinerant teacher with all his clothes in a small bag and a well-worn sheaf of pages containing important scriptures of his faith.

If we look at the life of Jesus and his teachings though, this could not be further from the truth.

While Jesus was a travelling teacher he and his disciples were not threadbare. They would not have needed one of their number to be their treasurer if this was the case. And, the Roman soldiers would not have cast lots to see who would get His coat! It must have been valuable. So Jesus has a different perspective to bring to spirituality.

When it came to explaining what the life of a spiritual disciple should be like we see Jesus giving examples that are both practical and godly. Take the situation where a lawyer came to ask him a test question which was written up for our edification in the book of John, Chapter 10 and verses 25-37.

John 10:25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

What is written in the Law? he replied. How do you read it?

He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

In reply Jesus said: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

The expert in the law replied, The one who had mercy on him.

Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.

Let's think back to the beginning of the discourse. It all started when an expert in the Law asked Jesus to state the path to eternal life. The path that a truly spiritual person would follow.

Rather that answer directly, Jesus asked the man what was his understanding!

On hearing the answer of "Love God and Love your neighbour", Jesus agreed with him.

But now the man wanted to have confirmation that he was doing this and so asked the well known question, "Who is my neighbour?" I surmise that he wanted Jesus to give an answer such that he could preen himself before the crowd as one who deserved to have eternal life because he did everything necessary.

Now we know, that no-one is "good". Jesus said that there was only one who was good, namely God. No-one has kept the Law; no-one has acted perfectly. Thus the statement "Love God and love your neighbour" should make us see our shortcomings, not seek to justify our conduct!

So Jesus proceeded to show the man how God looks at our lives and our self-effort at being good.

In a story Jesus illustrates the working out of a spiritual life through a Samaritan's actions.These show us what Jesus came to do for us and what anyone who aspires to live as Jesus did should practice as a lifestyle.

If we consider the elements of the story I think we can draw out the following lessons.

1. The man on the side of the road represents ourselves at times in our lives when we need help and our fellow man/woman whom we may encounter who needs our assistance. Each of us in our journey through the world can be at times the victim or the hope of succour.

2. Religion in the form of the priest could not help us. It's form and tradition often means that it's adherents will not stoop down to help those in need without knowing if they are of the same religion. They have to qualify for aid by belonging to the same group.

3. The Levite could represent those who are well meaning with their lips when you talk to them but have no time available to help in pracical ways. The ones who say, "Have you tried Social Services?", when their help is requested!

4. The Samaritan though (someone we might not expect,) comes to the victim's aid and bandages his wounds. He puts his spirituality into action.

5. He washed the wounds clean with oil and wine. These represent spiritual healing as well as physical. He gives mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, as well as physical help. He pays attention to all the needs of the people he comes into contact with day by day, with an eye to serving them.

6. He took the victim of this world's unfairness and troubles away from danger so that we would not fall into a similar trial immediately and put him in a place of protection where he can recover and also learn what the Samaritan knows.

7. The Samaritan then gave the innkeeper (Holy Spirit, Learned ones) money (opportunity) to care for the person and put him back on his feet with new and better understanding. His salvation and progress, in other words, was enabled to be ongoing if the victim so desired!

This is what Jesus has done for all of us. We have been rescued from this evil world but not just left to fend for ourselves without acquiring better knowledge. We have opportunity to learn from Jesus and from others who have trod the same path and are able and willing to impart their wisdom to us.

Jesus shows us the way and gives us the power to follow in His footsteps.

The systems of this world have been defeated by Jesus and our predecessors have enforced that defeat. The way is written down in the bible for our learning and edification and to bring us success.

We should make the best of the opportunity Jesus has placed before us and also be on the lookout to offer this same opportunity to others.

We can be empowered to live spiritually fulfilled lives. As the apostle Paul said in a letter to his coleague Titus...

Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age...., waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Let's continue to do what Jesus illustrated as being the mindset and lifestyle of the truly spiritual. Let's aspire to be good Samaritans through Jesus living in us as we live and are guided by His Spirit residing in us.


Paul's Thorn In The Flesh. Click Here.
Grace and Law in Ancient Israel. Click Here.
What do you mean - Grace? Click Here.
The Heart Of God Click Here.

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