June 01, 2023
"Spiritual formation, is in practice, the way of rest for the weary and overloaded, of the easy yoke and the light burden (Mathew 11:28-30), of cleaning the "inside of the cup and...the dish" (23:26, of the good tree that cannot bear bad fruit (Luke 6:43). And it is the path along which God's commandments are found to be not "heavy," not "burdensome" 1 John 5:3).
It is the way of those learning as disciples or apprentices of Jesus "to do all things that I have commanded you," within the context of his "I have been given say over everything in heaven and earth" and "Look, I am with you every minute" (Mathew 28:18,20 PAR).
But - we reemphasize, because it is so important - the primary "learning" here is not about how to act, just as the primary wrongness or problem in human life is not what we do. Often what human beings do is so horrible that we can be excused, perhaps, for thinking that all that matters is stopping it. But this is an evasion of the real horror: the heart from which the terrible actions come. In both cases, it is who we are in our thoughts, feelings, dispositions, and choices - in the inner life - that counts. Profound transformation there is the only thing that can definitively conquer outward evil.
It is very hard to keep this straight. Failure to do so is a primary cause of failure to grow spiritually. Love, we hear, is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). Then mistakenly try to be loving by acting patiently and kindly - and quickly fail. We should always do the best we can in action, of course; but little progress is to be made in that arena until we advance in love itself - the genuine inner readiness and longing to secure the good of others. Until we make significant progress there, our patience and kindness will be shallow and short-lived at best
It is love itself - not loving behavior, or even the wish or intent to love - that has the power to "always protect, always trust, always hope, put up with anything and never quit" (verses 7-8 PAR). Merely trying to act lovingly will lead to despair and to the defeat of love. It will make us angry and hopeless.
But taking love itself - God's kind of love - into the depths of our being through spiritual formation will, by contrast, enable us to act lovingly to an extent that will be surprising even to ourselves, at first. And this love will then become a constant source of joy and refreshment to ourselves and others. Indeed it will be according the promise, "a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14) - not an individual burden to carry through life, as "acting lovingly" surely would be."
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