Our world is certainly troubled. There is so much hostility, so much greed, so much unfairness. For many people today, the way through the hardness of day to day life is through “spirituality.” Indeed, “spirituality” is on the rise in our society. Whatever the growling New Atheists say, it is a fact that the majority of people yearn to find some sense of meaning in a form of spirituality.
Even Christians may have leanings this way too. For example, in taking my students through the first era of Church History I have had cause on several occasions to call to their attention that practically all of the so-called great leaders in the early Church for the first five centuries were ascetics. That is, they believed in celibacy and simple diet and longed for solitude. Well, which of these is spirituality? Are any of them “spiritual” per se? I don’t think so.
So what are the constituents of true spirituality? To find out more about what spirituality really is, consider Jesus Christ. In John 1:1 we’re told, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Did you get that? What is being stressed there? Relationship! Fellowship! God is a social God! That is why He put our first parents in Eden and walked and talked with them. And that is why He has sent the second Adam, His own Son, to a fallen Earth to reclaim a people for fellowship together with Him in a glorious future society. Friendship, societal involvement, is spiritual.
Secondly, look at John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek term translated “Word” is, as some of you know, “Logos” – a word which carries the connotation, not only of a word, but of the idea or thought behind the word. It has to do with thinking. In Luke 24: 27 the Lord Jesus took two disciples through a study “expounding” (meaning “to unfold”) all the Scriptures which had to do with Himself and His Passion. Later that day, they exclaimed to each other “Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened up the Scriptures to us?” (Lk. 24:32). “Opened” means something like “explained thoroughly.” Bible study is spiritual. This explains Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:25 and 3:16. Thinking is spiritual. It is included in the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-38), and it is indispensable for every truly spiritual person (2 Cor. 10:3-5; cf. Rom. 12:2).
Not only that, but the very fact that “the Word became flesh” and that He rose in the flesh (1 Cor. 15:20ff.) demonstrates to us that our bodies are important for true spirituality. Moreover, eating is spiritual (Lk. 24:42-43) and working is spiritual. Jesus was constantly working. Even when resurrected He built a fire for the disciples to cook their fish upon (Jn. 21:9).
Fellowship, Bible study, thinking, eating, working! These can be spiritual disciplines! So what is spirituality then? It is not something ethereal! It is not something out of the ordinary. It is not something invisible – otherwise, as Ellis Potter puts it, the more spiritual someone becomes the less visible they would become. No, spirituality is using our bodies, using our minds, our conversations, our meals, our commonplaces in the way God intended for them to be used. The Incarnation of the Son of God shows us that it is possible to be a spiritual person in the midst of all of the fallenness which surrounds us. That is an important part of the message of the Incarnation which we would do well to reflect upon in these days of confused “spirituality.”