We used to pick oranges when I was a kid. It was rather boring but it had to be done to fill an order. Our Dad tried to encourage us with the saying, ‘The Harder You work, the Easier it is.’ There was some truth in this. But it’s not true in the spiritual sphere, by which I mean the life of God.
RELIGION* IS NOT SPIRITUALITY
We need to distinguish between spirituality and religion. A good deal of what passes for spirituality is actually religion, namely accretions we have added to the simplicity of Christ as our life. Maturity and growth into Christ will show that a lot of our efforts are humbug. Which is why Jesus wants us to rest in Him and not effect pieties.
In Jesus veils and shibboleths are removed, which is a good reason to live from Him and not from ‘the stuff.’ Paul wrote ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ Col 3.4 NIV. This is not about pie in the sky by and by. It’s about daily life in the world. Following the cross and Pentecost Christ appears in all who believe.
Being holy as God is holy is no longer a pipe dream or an invitation to a tedious legalism. It is ours now because we are part of God. “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” John 14.20 NIV.
Paul acknowledged that rules about not eating and not touching afford no power to live a Godly life. But that which is effective is Christ our life – meaning Christ as us via the reality of the incarnation.
CLOUD OF UNKNOWING
Which brings us back to ‘working hard.’ Paul urges all to work at our salvation with fear and trembling. Clearly this is not about works but about seizing the radical grace that is ours by inheritance in Christ. (The ‘religious’ temptation is to reject radical grace because it is unbelievable to the religious mind and obliterates accumulated ‘entitlements.)
The paradox is our resting in Christ – allowing ourselves just to be in Him without addition or subtraction. Richard Rohr writes,
“In the fourteenth century, the inspired, anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing taught that God in Christ dealt with sin, death, forgiveness, and salvation “all in one lump.” It is a most unusual, even homely, phrase, but for me, this corporate and mystical reading of history contributes to the unitive vision we are seeking, as we try to understand the Universal Christ. Jesus by himself looks like an individual, albeit a divine individual, but the Christ is a compelling image for this “one-lump” view of reality.”
In Christ we are joined to God, joined to ourselves and joined to each other. The plan is that the life of the trinity becomes the life of the world.
THE STUFF IS RUBBISH
‘I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead’ Phil 3. 8-11 NIV.
* Religion is the attempt to gain acceptance and union with God by our own efforts.