Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Question One

After my post on equality it makes sense that I am interested in a blog called "A Passionate and Determined Quest for Adequacy."  In a recent post there Ashley W. (also a Quaker lawyer, who lives in Oregon) answered three questions posed in a paper a friend of hers is writing for an assignment in The School of the Spirit.

  • Who is Jesus in your life?
  • What does it mean to you to live a Christian life?
  • What one thing would you say to people to describe your relationship with Jesus?
As I set out to answer these for myself I realized I would have to change the order in which I would answer them.  

Also, as I thought about these I realized it was too much to cover in one blog post.   This, then, is the first of three posts, one for each question.

1.  What does it mean to you to live a Christian life?

A Christian life is one given over to living under the guidance of  Christ.  My experience is that reported by many Quakers since the founding of the movement, and by many people before and since, in and outside the Society: God communicates with everyone--the Light shines into the hearts of all and illuminates the way.

I think, by the way, that the fact God does communicate  with us is the functional definition of grace.   Grace  to me is not being spared in the plane wreck, or recovering miraculously from cancer, or given lots of money and resources, or even being saved despite our inevitable failures.   Grace in my sense of things is that God is there to lead us in our lives.

And, for clarity sake, I don't mean that God communicates with me through the Bible, or theological writings.    I am talking about direct communication, revelation, openings--whatever.  This is first hand, not second hand communication.

My experience with this is of being confronted when my behavior does not conform to that which is required of me and, if I acknowledge that it does not, and submit to that conviction, I am led to be changed, improved, perfected--whatever--by that submission and my repentance.

If I don't acknowledge and don't submit then I can render myself less likely to do so next time although as I have become older I have found it well nigh impossible to shut Christ up for long, at least on some things,  with whatever rationalizations I have for my behavior.  

This experience, over the years, and bumpy years they have been, has changed my condition.   I am being constantly shaped to conform--in my own inadequate way--to what is described in the liberal domain of the Society as the testimonies of simplicity, peace/harmony, integrity, community and equality (or to the fruits of spirit in Galatians 5).  Successive trips to the spiritual wood shed, and the lessons learned there, have improved my experience of living and certainly improved the experience of those who live with and anywhere near me.  If you think I am a mess today, which I cannot deny I am in some ways, you should have seen how it used to be with me.

This communication "breaks into" my world in the sense that it often overrides the "best advice" available from the people in our culture who are "certified smart" in matters of ethics, law, culture and religion.   I have learned that if I follow these rather than Christ I will get no manner of peace--and cause problems for others--until I come around.

That's my experience.   I identify with Fox about there being one who can speak to my condition. 
That's my faith and practice, to me that's a Christian life.   

I call it Christian even though, as is clear  to anyone who has read to this point, and will made even more obvious, below, much of what our religious culture calls "Christian" is of no value to me in this process described in Quaker literature as "perfection" (maturity, wholeness, fitness for a particular/peculiar purpose).  

Theology--thought structures built on inferences drawn from spiritual experience (and from other sources, not the least of which are the creations of our "reason")--has proven to be of no real help, and sometimes has been a real hinderance, to the work that is being done in me.   Sometimes the sound of scripture ringing in my ears has temporarily drown out the voice of Christ.

What I hear from Christ, by the way, never has anything to do with how other people behave.   Christ talks to me to improve me, not so I can improve others.  The only time I hear about others is when it is pointed out how I have hurt them in some way, or could help them in some way, and that a different approach is called for on my part.   

When I think I hear Christ talking to me about others the outcome--if I give those others the benefit of what I heard--is never good.   It does serve to remind me that there are a lot of spirits out there in the world and their babbling on and on about the shortcomings of others only serves as a signal that I am hearing from one of these, not from Christ .

I may well see someone behaving in a certain way and conclude that he is headed for a bad end because when I behaved that way, once upon a back in the day, I came to a bad end.  But I no longer confuse the conclusions I am drawing, the judgments I am making, about this person with  Christ telling me to do something to straighten him out.  

This is the end of part one of this three part blog post.


Jay T. said...


Please tell me how you discern Christ's voice from that of your conscience. How does it sound different to you?


Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post. I particularly like the part about scripture drowning out the voice of Christ. I have had that experience.

I assume you're not trying to say that your experience is true of everyone, though. That would suggest that no one ever ought to have written most of scripture in the first place (other than to describe their own experience). I'm grateful for scripture and other inspired writings when they give advice, even though I assume that they are never perfect. God can teach me through them when I am reading in an inspired (instructed) way. Why should the ways the inner Christ speaks to us be limited?

As you often say, the real issue is discernment. When I'm reading I have to discern whether it is reason or the conscience I was taught by my society or the inner Light that is causing a particular passage of scripture to speak to me.