Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love, joy, peace...

How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we'd better prove our right to exist?

The knowledge of being loved in an unconditional way, before the world presents us with its conditions, cannot come from books, lectures, television programs, or workshops. This spiritual knowledge comes from people who witness to God's love for us through their words and deeds. These people can be close to us but they can also live far away or may even have lived long ago. Their witness announces the truth of God's love and calls us to act in accordance with it...

Living a spiritual life is living a life in which our spirits and the Spirit of God bear a joint witness that we belong to God as God's beloved children, (see Romans 8:16). This witness involves every aspect of our lives. Paul says: "Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God" (Romans 10:31). And we are the glory of God when we give full visibility to the freedom of the children of God.

When we live in communion with God's Spirit, we can only be witnesses, because wherever we go and whomever we meet, God's Spirit will manifest itself through us...

How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defence of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues of God's presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavour often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.

The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). These fruits speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question "How can I grow in the Spirit?" than the question "How can I make others believe in the Spirit?"

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey 

I am reminded of the remark attributed to St. Francis (though no one has apparently been able to trace its source*), "Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary use words."

Of course it isn't an either/or: neither Francis nor Henri Nouwen meant to imply that. But our words, should we use them, can only be counter-productive unless we do live in the fruits of the Spirit, ", joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (NIV)

Jesus came that we might have life, 'and have it to the full' (John 10:10). People around us will only be drawn in if they see this quality of fullness and richness of our life together, but not if they see laws and legalism. Bees are attracted by honey, not vinegar.
Ian Paul, Wordlive

(*In Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, however, Francis did tell the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, "Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.")


  1. Lovely, yes. What the world needs. Love, joy, peace. Indeed, Mike :)

    Happy 1001st post :)

  2. Thanks, Sue!

    Congratulations on your first female PM, by the way! What do you think of Julia Gillard? (I'm shamefully out of touch with Aussie politics...)

  3. How very true these words, Mike. I wonder if anyone ever experienced a profound metanoia based on words and argument alone. Because the Spirit's gifts are just that, free and graciously given, they are persuasive in ways that defy the intellectualized norms. The Spirit is so fluid, getting in places no thought ever entered, beyond any rule or reg.

  4. Thanks, Mike. It's pretty good having a female figurehead.

    But still, she's still a figurehead. What do I think of her? I quite like her actually, but what the hell would I know? :)

    These words jumped out at me on this visit:

    "How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we'd better prove our right to exist?"

    Isn't it funny how our minds tell us bad things about God and so it's reflected in our immedidate surroundings, and so the snowball goes. And yet cultures more "primitive" than the ones of the past 6000 years more often than not had a view of God woven through everything, not distinct from his/her creation, and in general terms they did not seem to have the desire to grab, to grasp. Isn't it AMAZING how our thoughts and beliefs create our reality and everything perpetuates itself?

    In either direction, thankfully :)

  5. It was that sentence, Sue, that set me off on this post too. Your words about our thoughts and beliefs creating our reality(ies) remind me of Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception ;-) And are very true!

  6. That's interesting. Do you recommend it to read?

  7. Not sure I'd recommend it, as such, Sue. You might like to read the Wikipedia article first! It's all about Huxley's mescaline experiences. What your words reminded me of was Huxley's rationale for taking mescaline in the first place...

  8. LOL, indeed, after reading about it more on I think I'll give it a miss. Even though it sounds fascinating, I think I would rather read the experiences of someone who's managed to reach those heights from entering in from their own everydayness rather than a mescaline high, as attractive/horrifying as that sounds :)

  9. Sue: Quite!

    Barbara: I love what you say about the Spirit's fluidity - absolutely! And the great thing is we cannot know ourselves what the Spirit is doing in and through us - to do so would be the spiritual equivalent of looking at our own faces without a mirror. We can only ever catch a glimpse of the Spirit's reflection in another's eyes...

  10. BTW - I can never happily settle on a personal pronoun for the Spirit. The Greek pneuma is neuter, but "it" sounds either disrespectful or archaic. "She" is no better a translation than "he", and risks sounding like a feminist affectation, at least from a man like myself, as if I were to use the name "Godde" all the time for the (first person of) the Trinity. And yet "he" sounds too, well, masculine, and the Spirit is not, really, not what we experience as masculine, anyway!

  11. No, it's most certainly a conundrum, Mike.

    Isn't there a neutral gender in German that isn't impersonal like "it"? I think we should rewrite English to fit God in there :)