c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: Spirituality Means Zeal for God

Friday, August 31, 2012

Spirituality Means Zeal for God

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV)

                Since Augustine the Western Church has been anhedonic.  That means failing to enjoy life and the gifts of God associated with physical pleasure.  Augustine, being a Manichaean that was not fully converted, assumed all physical pleasure was a dangerous sign of sin.  It’s true that the moral tenor of Christianity is decidedly not Hedonistic.  The New Testament speaks of Christian morality in the words of Stoicism, for instance, which says happiness derives from virtue.  But virtue in the ancient world was defined as the golden mean between excess and deficiency.

                As a corrective to Augustine we might point to some things about Jesus.  His first sign was turning water into wine at a wedding.  He said that he came to give life abundantly (John 10:10).  On the third day he arose; he did not stay dead but rose up to enjoy the joy for which he suffered (Hebrews 12:2).  He knew what the Old Testament said:

                You make known to me the path of life;

                                in your presence there is fullness of joy;

                                at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

But there is an exception to this rule, which the life, death, and resurrection of Christ teaches us, and which necessitates the dualistic, cross-bearing, spiritual perspective.  We must advance the Gospel with zeal (not moderation).  We are called to bear faithful witness and always speak the truth in love, whatever the temporal consequences might be.  The Pauline passage above, Galatians 5:13-15, does not say the opposite of flesh is anhedonia but to love and serve, and fulfill the law by doing so.  If we live our life consuming things in this “consumer society” then our moral sensibilities become dull and we end up consuming everything in sight, including each other.

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