October 26, 2017
A wise professor of theology once remarked to me to beware of people who profess special revelation from God. He said the more “spiritual” things get, the more dangerous they become and even demonic. Today’s text reminds me of that conversation so many years ago.
One of the challenges these early churches dealt with was the heresy of gnosticism. Gnostics claimed they had received special revelation from God. This knowledge set them apart from ordinary Christians and became a source of power and elitism for them. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. The irony is how these people, whom Paul calls “unspiritual,” become known as ultra-spiritual people.
The mark of a spiritual person, in the tradition of Jesus, is not in some kind of super spirituality but in the holiness of their humanity. Jesus did not become a human being so that we could become something other than or more than human beings. He became a human being so that we could embody the holiness of humanity.
Paul warns the Colossians and he warns us today to be wary of super spiritual people and super spiritual communities. These people and groups tend to define themselves not by the revelation of the Gospel common to us all but by extra revelations and special teaching. You have to go there and to them to get it. Only certain teachers and leaders are “anointed” to share it. And because it often gets framed in orthodox biblical categories and the language of supernatural dimensions, it can be so alluring and seem so right.
Paul said one of the hallmarks of such persons and communities is false humility. People who “delight in false humility” do so by putting themselves on a higher plane than others. They claim to be “humbled” to receive such revelation, which ironically serves as a veil to mask their pride in being so chosen.
The hallmark of real Christianity is not elevation but descent. It is not revealed through people who venture “higher up,” aspiring for more spiritual experiences but those who journey downward, ever increasing their experience of loving and serving others.
They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
What we need is Jesus, our head, and we can only be connected to him through his Body, the Church. God is growing the Church. God is not searching for super spiritual people to grow the Church, but for saints in ordinary.
Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, in whose image we are made and on whom we fix our gaze; for it is only in beholding him that we can become like him. I renounce my own quest for super spiritual status. I want to be a holy human being, one in whom you are pleased to dwell and through whom you delight in revealing yourself. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
- Have you ever been around people (and/or communities) who set themselves apart by their own experiences of God, humbly claiming a kind of super spiritual status? Were you drawn to follow and become like them?
- What do you make of this notion of the more “spiritual” something or someone is the more dangerous they become?
- What do you observe about the ways Jesus teaches and demonstrates what it means to be spiritual?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.