Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

Confused About Spirituality? (Mar-Apr 2005)

Filed under: — @ 7:18 pm and

by Rubel Shelly
March – April, 2005

Most people with whom I talk about spirituality seem to be baffled about the concept. I get that way myself at times.

For example, do you ever have any of these ideas about it? Spirituality is the rare trait of the sensitive few. Spiritual people don’t get their hands dirty with the stuff of ordinary life. The occasional saint who achieves spirituality wouldn’t fit into my world. I wish I could withdraw from the rough-and-tumble, down-and-dirty life of earning a living, mowing the grass, and paying bills to pursue spirituality.

Wrong-headed. Inaccurate. Illogical. Misguided. Just plain false! Every one of those common ideas about being a spiritual person is not only wrong but effectively undermines that desirable way of life.

Who is the model of a truly spiritual life? I’ll presume to speak for you and offer the name Jesus of Nazareth. Did he live in a desert monastery? Build a retreat center in the mountains? Sit silently in the middle of a subdued crowd? Protect himself from ordinary people and routine life? You know better.

Jesus went to dinner parties and weddings. He told stories that prove he was a keen observer of such routine things as sweeping a house, planting seed, tending animals, and fishing. He had conversations with people as he traveled and ate. He cooked breakfast for his friends. He cried at funerals.

Being spiritual or Christian or holy is not – when understood correctly – taking up a new occupation in a new place. It is living your old occupation in the old place but with new purpose now. “Newness of life” for God’s people is the reorientation of all the details of working, talking, befriending, and living to Jesus. Seeing them as participation with God in history. Honoring him in the ordinary.

The worst thing for any of us is to think that “being spiritual” is some invisible, unearthly, ethereal quality of life reserved for an elite class. I fear some of us see being spiritual as being less than truly human.

Jesus was God among us. And the hardest thing for me to grasp about him is not that he was truly God but that he was truly human. He sweated. Got belly aches and tired feet. Laughed and cried. Got mad. And the awe generated by his occasional miracles was directly related to the ordinariness of their setting.

God seeks to be with us still in the routine of our lives. At work, with family, and in your normalcy today, you are on mission. You are God’s priest to offer a living sacrifice. To invest dignity, grace, and love. Be alert to your high calling!New Wineskins


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Rubel ShellyRubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville since 1978. During that time, he has also taught at David Lipscomb University, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Tennessee State University. He is known as a community leader in Nashville and has served with such groups as the AIDS Education Committee of the American Red Cross, a medical relief project to an 1100-bed children’s hospital in Moscow called “From Nashville With Love,” and “Seeds of Kindness.” He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. He has published widely in religious journals. He is co-editor with Mike Cope of the magazine Wineskins. Shelly has lectured on Christian apologetics, ethics, and medical ethics on university campuses across America and in several foreign countries. He has done short-term mission work in such places as Kenya, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Russia.

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