I’ve been perusing the blog of the pastor of an emerging community in Portland, OR recently, and I came across this interesting nugget he’s wrestling with…
“Practicing the Disciplines is a sign of Spiritual IMmaturity…
Scot McKnight got me thinking… Those who say every follower of Jesus should be practicing the spiritual disciplines (things like fasting, prayer, meditation, giving, etc) as a matter of course are wrong. They are not a requirement. The are not a sign of spiritual maturity. In fact, in a real way, practicing the disciplines is a sign of spiritual immaturity.
The spiritual disciplines are unnecessary if you love God and love your neighbor. The problem is…none of us do that as we should… ”
Read the rest here
What do you think?
I must say that I agree with Bob, but I’m not sure what practical purpose this serves for you and I as we hunger for more of God in our lives. Bob, it seems to me, makes sure to keep the goal for the disciplines fundamentally in our submission to Christ and an admission of our spiritual poverty without him, but the question I have for Bob is this: When will we ever love God or our neighbor with perfect love? Clearly the implication in his post is that we won’t…so it comes down to the reality that in practicing the spiritual disciplines we should be rigorous in reminding ourselves of the goal of our actions. Righteousness should be our goal, but lording that “righteousness” over others reduces it to nothing. We have received our reward from presenting the image that we are righteous. Jesus clearly reminded us that when we pray, we should not act like the “hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men…(instead) go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…who sees what is done in secret.” (Matt 6:5)
In principle, Bob’s made a pretty good point. But practically speaking, in the context of the greater church that places little to no emphasis on discipleship and growth as essential aspects of the Christian life (at least here in America), he’s lowering the goalposts for what God is calling us to. I suspect (and the first few comments I’ve seen on the blog are starting to confirm this) that many will see this as a good reason not to put themselves through the suffering of the disciplines for the freedom on the other side, but rather toss out the baby with the bathwater. Hence the fellow that mentioned that his “arse” was sore from Dallas Willard.
Are we willing to take the hard steps of discipleship and hold one another to a higher standard in the body of Christ? Or in our thinking do we validate people’s natural inclination to be lackadaisical in their lifestyles because they’re “in”? In Bob’s context, he’s clearly devoted to a lifestyle of discipleship…I just hope as a leader in the church he continues to walk the path of the pursuit of righteousness and hold others to that same (healthy) standard. Not meaning to quibble over details…just some thoughts.