Recently, I’ve rediscovered a small book by Thomas Merton. Inspiring, challenging, and encouraging all at once; it offers quiet moments of reflection. Recently our small group had a discussion on why the followers of Christ have become more of a “culture” as opposed to a “movement” or “force” in our world. I think he speaks a bit of it here:
“It is unfortunately quite possible that a superficial religiosity, without deep roots and without fruitful relation to the needs of men and of society, may turn out in the end to be an evasion of imperative religious obligations. Our time needs more than devout, Church-going people who avoid serious wrongs (or at least the wrongs that are easily recognized for what they are) but who seldom do anything constructive or positively good. It is not enough to be outwardly respectable. On the contrary, mere external responsibility, without deeper or more positive moral values, brings discredit upon the Christian faith.” – Thomas Merton, “Life and Holiness”
Merton isn’t the only one who has recognized that Holiness is much more than living a life of “avoiding sin”, and does not lead us to a life of a monk, separated from the temptations and toils of the world around us. Even though, ironically, he spent over 20 of his final years in monastic living…he wrote of holiness bringing us into relation with the needs of people around us. His Catholic beliefs led to a portrait of those who chose his path as a great resource for those suffering, in case it’s hard for many of our protestant souls to swallow.
John Wesley & B.T. Roberts, men whose faith has given birth to the movement we find ourselves within, both also believed in a very real and practical holiness that was supernaturally resourced, and experienced within community/relationships. It leads us to a love for others and draws us out of ourselves, and into the lives of those who suffer. It is justice, and righteousness (love and activity toward God’s “making things right”).
May we be members who are active in a movement. People who are caught up in the activity and direction of God’s Kingdom. May we be transformed and empowered by a Spirit who leads us into areas of suffering and presence, and come together regularly to celebrate and lift each other up. Amen.