Foundational Ideas about Formation Part 4

O Lord God, unto whom alone all vengeance does belong; O God who does avenge, shine forth, and do avenge all wrong.

Idea #4: Your spirituality is not just about you.

True, life-giving spirituality is communal, as well as concerned with our own inner lives. Beyond the immediate “other” stands the transcendent “Other.” Our relationship with other people is grounded in the fact that they are (knowingly or not) in relationship with the mysterious God who is. To honor people is to honor God, in whose image they are made. Our encounter with another person is sometimes our most direct encounter with God.

Our spirituality can be tested by our willingness to embrace the other. The heart of God’s love is, at core, self-giving love. It is communal and our participation in God’s love must result in a communal love for others. And not just the others we choose.

The former Dean of Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary once said, upon inviting people to come to take part in the Eucharist, “Remember, your enemy is standing beside you, also receiving the love and nourishment of God.” A sober reminder. We selectively exclude people, sometimes whole categories of people, in our self blinded positions of righteousness.

Fear keeps us from embracing those unlike us. Deep inside, we recognize that an encounter with that person might change us, challenge our faith, or poke a hole in our carefully crafted walls of self-protection. We cannot genuinely welcome another person into our life and still be in full control. When we truly meet another person, we must share life with them – like eating out of the same bowl with our ungloved fingers.

Think about it:

Think of someone specific in your life who is new, different, or with whom you feel awkward. How might you simply accept and receive them with openness? Can you identify your fear? What control will you lose?

Read the rest of our series here:
Foundational Ideas about Formation (Part I)
Foundational Ideas about Formation (Part II)
Foundational Ideas about Formation (Part III)


Marilyn Elliott is a member of the Soul Care Collective Steering Team and a regular contributor to our blog.


Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.