spirituality

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… may not really be sitting alone on a bench pondering the meaning of life.

The word comes with a mystical, other-worldly ring. Something one undertakes in their leisurely hours that is apart from real, nitty-gritty life. A kind of transcendent, supernatural experience that one can’t tell is real or imagined, but it certainly fulfills the function of centering yourself, allowing the dust of your thoughts to settle.

Beyond that though, it is also an all-encompassing term used when one finds a sense of unity in his or her body, spirit and soul – and that is what devotees of yoga, for example, can expect to achieve. It is a balanced, all-encompassing sort of spirituality.

Not far from this concept of spirituality is the “most important commandment” of all pointed out by Jesus Christ – that is to love the Lord our God with our soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). The good Jewish man that He was, He was referring to Deuteronomy 6:5, which says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Of course an important question to understand closely to what Jesus was invoking is – what is the Jewish idea of the heart, soul and might? Aristotle’s (and from there St. Augustine’s) concept of dualism which dichotomises the body from the soul has been challenged as a wrong way to look into the human components. I don’t attempt to discuss this here.

So I would like to find out, how is a Christian to view “spirituality”? Is it that aspect of our lives that involves spending time in a silent retreat, or journaling, or praying and hearing from God, or being totally absorbed and enraptured in musical worship?

I suppose the English Bible doesn’t use the word “spirituality” that much as we do today, referring to more Asian practices of religion; but it does talk about “godliness” and “true religion”. If there are no objections, perhaps we could equate spirituality with godliness and true religion, since in these days being religious is synonymous (but not necessarily always) to being spiritual? After all, the church began with Eastern roots.

What is the Bible’s take on these two terms?

If anyone thinks he is religious (spiritual?) and does not bridle his tongue (body) but deceives his heart (heart), this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction (mind/heart/body), and to keep oneself unstained from the world (mind/heart/body). James 1:26-27

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (it may be tempting to say this is “body”, but serving really involves every part of us). 1 Timothy 2:9-10

Could also someone who is “full of the Spirit” also not be spiritual, and in many cases in the Acts of the Apostles, become a pre-requisite to ministry of a certain kind (in this case, as deacons)?

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. Acts 6:3

Therefore spirituality is a term that we need to constantly define in light of Scripture, and increasingly more as it becomes a buzzword in our culture today. Not only is it just quiet meditation in serene or Christian-music-imbued environments, it is a way of life that is fully and completely given over in love to God – heart, soul and might.

It is, from an angle, the living out of a life that requires a full unity of the self.

I am (still) reading The Marriage of East and West by Bede Griffiths. Unity of the self is, according to Bede Griffiths, something that Hinduism highly values.

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