The first thing that happens when you go to school as a kid is you notice that there are other people there. Everywhere.
All the time.
And sometimes they aren’t nice and sometimes they take things that belong to you.
Once junior high and high school hit, you realize that some of them are nicer to look at than others…but I’m getting off track…
From the point when we are born, then off to school, to work, and so on we are surrounded by other people. It complicates things, sometimes it makes things more enjoyable, but one thing we know is that there are always other people even if we’re trying to hide from them.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m all about solitude and spending time alone or with one very close friend or spouse occasionally but part of “growing up, moving out” is to understand that in being transformed by God through the Spirit that teaches us how to follow Jesus we learn how to relate to ourselves and to others (both God and other people).
As a matter of fact, Robert Mulholland says that the goal of any kind of spiritual growth is to become “the image of Christ for the sake of others.”
For example: Jesus teaches us to “forgive as we have been forgiven.” Ask yourself the question “For me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven, what has to happen?”
- God forgives us for sin and going against His desire for creation.
- Someone else here has to hurt us.
- We have to interact with them and show them forgiveness.
This does not work if other people aren’t part of our life. The same goes for most of the teaching of Jesus – what we learn from Jesus and what we do with it ultimately affects other people, and more than that it changes the world. If you’re interested in more on this, I’ll be teaching a one-day class called “How To Forgive” at Parkview’s Orland Park Campus on May 15th. Go here for more details. The solution to this would be just to avoid other people, just hang out with Jesus, and become a hermit right? No, because then we're ignoring something much greater - that we are called to be the "light to the nations" (Isaiah) and to the world (Matthew 5-7).
Here’s where missional spiritual formation becomes so important. Prayer, reading the Bible, worship, hanging out with other apprentices of Jesus, listening to God’s Spirit, and applying the teachings of Jesus become much more powerful when we’re going somewhere (i.e. “heading out”) where those practices and teachings will be put to the test.
Places where we may get hurt and need to forgive.
Places where we have to have a great relationship with God in order to trust Him when it’s tough.
Places where people want to see if we are actually different or if we’re just a “self-righteous” version of everyone else.
Places where people may question us on the Scriptures or simply ask us what we believe.
Places where we need to love someone that even those so-called Christian people in our life refuse to love because of the way they vote or who they are physically attracted to.
Places where we say "Man, this Jesus thing would be great if it weren't for my dad/mom/wife/brother/co-worker/etc...."
The relationship we have with God grows stale when we hide it and keep it to ourselves – we grow, we pray, we forgive, we let go of anger and lust and gossip only when it's for the sake of giving life and health and help to other people. Also, we figure out exactly what matters most when we are pressed to say “Here is Jesus, truly and wholly, and I’ll use my life to show you what He’s all about.” God has done the same for us: “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
So if you can say “Yes, I’m growing in my relationship with God” can you also say “Yes, I’m growing in that relationship because I’m putting myself in situations where it is being tested and used”?
Think this week about all the “spiritual” things you do – are they keyed to helping you move towards other people so that you can pass on what you receive and learn through those “spiritual” things?
If not, then what’s the point of doing them?