Two important types of spirituality exist. Being and doing spirituality. Doing spirituality involves doing what one believes a Christian does. A Christian is one who does not lie or steal so doing people don’t lie or steal. A good Christian reads his or her Bible everyday so a doing oriented Christian reads his or her Bible everyday. Doing Christian’s spirituality and consequently their relationship with Christ is defined by doing. Their identity flows out of what they do. Our churches are full of doing Christians. A lot of preaching is based on this as well. Do love each other, don’t lie, do share the gospel, don’t commit adultery, do serve in church, don’t let your anger control you, do and do not, do and do not. Now I believe these are all very good things, but how they are presented has a problem. If you fail to do or not to do these acts your identity as a Christian comes into question. Since we are all human we will fail. Often our response is to try harder to be a better Christian.
Being spirituality takes another track. It begins by recognizing who we are in Christ. We are justified, redeemed, and being sanctified. We are sons of God, no longer dead but alive, and saints. These are all things that Christ has done. Therefore our identity is rooted in what Christ has done, not us, and ultimately in who he is. What we do then flows out of our identity, which cannot change because Christ does not change. Now if we stumble if means we are not living up to our true identity, like a bird that chooses to walk instead of fly. We have failed to let our actions come from our identity, Christ.
To put it differently doing spirituality is closely related to legalism. It means attempting to do what God desires out of human effort. Being spirituality is one of actively relying on grace and faith. The righteous will live by faith. If we come to Christ by faith we should expect to live how he desires by the same means. Won’t this cause us to live how ever we want? Paul faced this question in Romans. If my identity is not in what I have done, but in Christ can’t I do whatever I want? I suppose, but it is much like a bird who chooses to walk instead of fly. It is unnatural and far short of what he could do. Or like an adult who when he has the ability to build skyscrapers chooses to play in the sand box. In many ways to come short in this area is to be short of being fully human. Such an attitude in the extreme can create dead men walking. Faith without works is dead.
This reminds me of the movie Wall-E where people on the spacecraft sit on floating chairs, while having their every need catered to by robots. It is pitiful because they have settled for cheap thrills when they are capable of so much more; walking, running, jumping, and looking at the stars. You may remember that scene where the couple discovers they have a swimming pool. Swimming is fun! Instead they though the highest pleasure was a delicious pizza shake or virtual tennis. I think here we have the beginnings of a Christian idea of pleasure. This may be a strange analogy, but coming to Christ should be something like the couple that realizes there is more to the spaceship. It’s going to take work to get our bodies in shape to walk, to run. It is a process that no one alive has mastered. The good news is that it is not something unnatural. As birds are made to fly it is what we were made to be.