Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Problem with Spiritual Formulas

One of the problems with applying Biblical text as spiritual formulas is that Jesus often said contradictory things. We often miss the principal behind the point.

For example:

Formula 1: If you want to catch fish go far out into the deep water.

Luke 5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."

Formula 2: If you want to catch fish, fish in the shallow water near shore.

John 21:5 He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. 6 He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

Here we have two opposing formulas to catch fish. To be successful in "fishing" it is not about applying one of the above formulas, it is about understanding that Jesus knows where the fish (and people) are. The underlying principal is: go to where the fish are, not where they are not.

Many "Christian" speakers and writers have made vast fortunes and garnered enormous attention by proclaiming various spiritual formulas for obtaining salvation, being physically healed or gaining financial security. Entire denominations have been built around the application of a single verse of scripture and the exercise of some "formula" it seems to contain. They claim by doing or not doing something you can either gain God's favor or avoid His wrath.

Jesus did not come to teach us a method, a process or a formula to somehow evoke God into action in our lives. He came to infect our lives with His unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. What both the "world" and religion have in common is that they both try to convince us that until we "do something" we are not included and not worthy of the love and favor of God. They both say that until we participate in some program to improve ourselves we will be outside, lost and excluded. They of course have such a program all wrapped up in bows and ribbons.

Jesus offers no program, no rules set in stone and no requirements to earn His favor. He simply asks us if we know that He loves us and if we do we should love others as He loves us. I know some will find verses that say to do this or don't do that but the bottom line is: Are we living in the knowledge of His unconditional love and are we sharing that with others?

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