Living in a world of such a variety of religious beliefs and persuasions it can be incredibly difficult to discern what it means to live a life that is in the most positive sense truly spiritual. Add to that the pressure to be productive, busy and active and it becomes harder and harder to define. Is spirituality defined by what we do are by who we are of a combination of both? We also live in a world where centuries old values of right and wrong in such fundamental areas as lifestyle and sexuality are being questioned and systematically dismantled. Under the guise of secularism (which really is another form of religious belief that lacks the self-awareness to recognise a higher value) another set of values is confidently espoused.
In many ways this is nothing new. Here is how the apostle Paul writing in the first century described an unspiritual and empty life. The English translation is from a paraphrase called The Message:
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”
That was written 2000 years ago, but it could not be more up to date!
That is a pretty depressing description of human nature and yet in may ways it does illustrate some of the characteristics of modern life presented through much of the media and culture around us.
So what does a truly spiritual person look like?
The best explanation I have come across again is that from the apostle Paul. He talks about this in terms of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. In Galatians 5:22-23 of his letter , the New International Version of the original Greek, states:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Here is how the Message translation paraphrases each of these different qualities:….
NIV The Message
Love Affection for others
Joy Exuberance about life
Patience A willingness to stick with things
Kindness A sense of compassion in the heart
Goodness A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people
Faithfulness Involved in loyal commitments
Gentleness Not needing to force our way in life
Self-control Able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.
And here is the context within which that is presented through the Message translation of those verses:
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
So true spirituality is much more than a subjective inner sense of peace or calm. It is reflected in specific qualities of character.
For more on this also see:
How would you describe spiritual maturity in the most positive sense?