If we are really serious about being genuine Christians, certain elements are essential for our spiritual lives. The following is a checklist of some of those essential elements.
• Daily prayer must be an important part of our lives.
Jesus’ prayer life was involved with his ministry. For example, his 40 days in the desert spent in fasting and prayer enabled Jesus to reject the temptation to become a popular wonder worker or to use power to bring about his mission.
The night before he chose 12 disciples, Jesus went into the hillside to pray over the choices he would make. Jesus took Peter, James and John to the Garden of Olives and asked them to stay nearby while he went on farther to pray.
In that prayer of agony, he found the courage he needed to meet death, even death on the cross. We too must pray every day for guidance in the many situations in which we find ourselves.
• Our spirituality must be incarnational.
That’s a big word that means “in the flesh.” God so loved the world that he sent his Son to become a human being like us, experiencing our human condition in everything but sin. Jesus tasted death for everyone so that all might be members of one family reconciled, restored, reunited. God’s grace has penetrated all of nature. We do not live in a dualistic world: natural/supernatural; nature/grace; secular/sacred; body/spirit; material/spiritual and earth/heaven. We are one entity. Everything God made is good.
• Moral goodness must become a primary quality of our lives.
This is done not by cultivating a record of unbroken regulations, but by integrating the teachings of Jesus into our attitudes, habits and outlook on life. Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu reflected Jesus’ teaching when he wrote, “Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus, goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus, honesty is attained.”
• We must be willing to become like God who is all love.
Developing a positive self-image of ourselves is most important so we can appreciate our goodness and thank God for loving us. We must love ourselves first if we are to become a loving person who can find good in others and love them. Then we can extend our love to family, relatives, friends and acquaintances that shape our lives, and whose lives we help shape.
• Our love must be all inclusive.
Jesus’ life taught his disciples to exclude no one from their love. He reached out to the blind, to lepers, to crippled men and women in need of healing. He also welcomed children. When some advocated punishment for sinners, Jesus protected the sinners with a dynamic mercy that held up to accusers the mirror of their own sinfulness. In a society where men did not speak with women in public, not even with their wives, Jesus welcomed women as disciples and friends.
• Our love must embrace a world view.
Our love must extend not only to our “near neighbors,” but also our sisters and brother who are “distant neighbors.” We must recognize that citizens of other communities, classes and nations are our sisters and brothers. God has created them with the same dignity as we have with an equal right to share the earth.
• We must ground our spirituality on the personal experience of our lives.
God reveals truths and insights to each of us in a different way. God has a personal message for each of us. We must be willing to listen.
• Christ’s death and resurrection are central to our faith.
If we die with Christ, we will rise with him.