Christian Spiritual Principles
Christianity officially began with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That was the end of living the Law of the Old Testament and the beginning of living the new Life of the Holy Spirit of the New Testament. That new life as stated in Acts 2:42 ff cannot be found being lived in the Old Testament. For it to arrive, Jesus said that He had to leave since the Holy Spirit was to be the center and life of this New Testament just as She was in his life. (Cf: John 14:16-17,26; & Acts1:4,8)
However, something slowly went wrong as the first three centuries passed because the emphasis of living the life of a Christian began to return to living that of the Law, the Old Testament, leaving the Life of the Spirit, the center of the New Testament, behind. It is still the same today. And we too are experiencing the word of St Paul. “The written Law kills. It is the Spirit that gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6)
John says, “The way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers….And this is how we know that he remains in us: from the Spirit that he gave us.” 1 John 3:16 & 24. Laying down our lives for one another? How do we reconcile our American gun & Stand Your Ground laws with John’s definition of a Christian?
If we truly live the New Testament, then as Christians our view and relationship towards one another and all of creation will be based on the how efficiently the Love of the Spirit dwelling within us flows out to others, rather than on the Law which is concerned about an eye for an eye. Let us first consider a few differences.
1. Sin stems from the heart of man and not from the action done. The action in itself is indifferent. “What emerges from within a man, that and nothing else is what makes him impure. Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart; acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and render a man impure.” Mark 7:20 ff. The Law is concerned only with the action. The Life of the Holy Spirit is concerned primarily with the heart, love.
2. The body is the dwelling place of the spirit, the person. The human body has no existence on its own. The body is merely the instrument of the soul and spirit dwelling within. The Law sees the body as the cause of the person’s evil tendencies and therefore the body needs to be punished. The Life of the Holy Spirit sees the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit and needs to be embraced as a beautiful instrument through which the spirit, person, can share love. The Law creates division and separation between the body, soul and spirit. The Life of the Spirit creates unity, harmony and peace within and all around.
3. Because our spirit, our personhood, was created by our Heavenly Father we are born in “original goodness” or “original grace.” It is after birth that things change. The environment in which we live, an environment of degrees of Egoism and Individualism, slowly covers our original goodness, creating an environment within our soul and spirit that is called original sin or original darkness. We become unable to see and be naturally aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within. (Cf: John 14:17) Our task in life as Christians of the Holy Spirit is not to punish the body for disobeying the Law and/or for leading us into the darkness of sin, but rather through our constant Baptismal Renewal in the Holy Spirit of Love to uncover the original Grace and Light that we are, so that we can live as Paul says: “Let us live honorably as in daylight.” Romans 13:12-13.
4. The Law of God, the Ten Commandments, give us necessary guidelines so that we can know the boundaries between good and bad as we relate to all of creation, not only just to men and women. But the boundaries do not give life. They do make it possible for us to begin living the Life of the Holy Spirit. The edge of a cliff is an important boundary for safe living, but constantly being there does not give us the freedom of true life. We must move beyond the boundary of fear created by the Law if we truly wish to live.
5. “Love never wrongs the neighbor. Hence love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10. St Augustine is well known to have said, “Love and then do as you wish.” This is truly freedom, freedom coming from living the Life of the Holy Spirit. But at the same time St Paul’s admonition to those who live the Life of the Spirit is very important, “All things are lawful, but not all are advantageous.” 1 Cor. 10: 23.
6. The sixth commandment of the Law says “Thou shall not commit adultery.” Yet, religious tradition has always considered excessive eating, drinking, drugs, working and idleness as a sin, but they are not explicitly specified in any commandment, nor is fornication and masturbation. However, there is an underlying common element in each that does unite them as one under the sixth commandment. That element is called gluttony, the person’s excessive desire to experience the momentary pleasurable satisfaction that flows from abusing a part of the body that grants the momentary satisfaction. The fruits of the action are different when the person seeks to share or obtain from the body a pleasurable satisfying desire without the abuse of the body. Such an action cannot be classified under the sixth commandment because it is not gluttonous, and cannot be called by the names that the Law forbids even though the action is the same.
7. “Love never wrongs the neighbor. Hence love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10. “Love is patient; love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. These are the fruits of Life in the Holy Spirit. They dwell in the heart of man and woman. They are lived and shared always. The Law cannot forbid them because it does not live in the heart. However, again, one’s concern in living this Life of the Spirit is to discern whether this is the right moment or not to share a particular fruit of the Spirit with another. The other must always be respected and accepted where they are. True unconditional love is never pushy. Conditional love is pushy.
8. A mature heart, a heart living the Life of the Spirit, will embrace a sinful person because they see them also as children of our Heavenly Father. Just as a loving parent will never renounce their openly sinful son or daughter, neither will our Father. Love flowing from the Holy Spirit always understands that there needs to be a balance between the desire of the Law to destroy and/or punish the evil egoistical desires within, and the desire and need to the experience the fruits of the Spirit that give true self-love flowing from Life in the Holy Spirit.
9. Unconditional love flows from our spirit, not from the body. Conditional love flows from the soul from the soul since it is in the soul that we harbor negative feelings of fears, hurts, anger, rejections that feed our ego. But our good feelings, virtues, and desires will dwell in both our soul and spirit. If our love remains predominantly conditional in our heart it will use and abuse the body in order to fill its excessive desire for pleasure and contentment. If our conditional love in the heart rises to the spirit, it will lose predominantly its conditions and become one with the spirit’s unconditional love, and that is what is shared through the body. Love, be it unconditional or conditional, is always experiential in the body and soul. The presence of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) or the Law (Gal 5:19:21) will demonstrate which is predominantly dwelling in the heart.
In my personal life all the above arrived over a long period of time. I can look back and see that my years of religious life from the age of 15 to 41, even though they were more controlled by the Law, were preparing me for the moment of transition into the Life of the Holy Spirit. I eventually stopped preaching hell fire and brimstone because I realized that such preaching had not been successful for hundreds of centuries and was still not successful today. It was at this time that I turned to the study of psychology hoping to find a way to lead people’s hearts to healing since they were not being healed by living the Law in Christianity.
My acceptance of psychology as a means to healing didn’t last long. I soon found myself in a midlife crisis, and during that moment the Life of the Holy Spirit found me. The words of Paul 1 Cor 12:1 “Now, brothers, I do not want to leave you in ignorance about spiritual gifts” became the focus of my own life and of what I shared. That meant that the spiritual gifts had not only to be understood, but daily lived within me. Otherwise, how could they be shared? This new life not only changed me personally, but also my ministry. Psychology helped me in the understanding of these Gifts, and the Gifts, especially the Gift of Healing, gave the real power to heal people’s hearts, that which I was missing before.
The Discernment of Spirits is one of those precious gifts that is necessary for living the Life of the Spirit and in being a minister. When people came to me to confess their sins or to ask whether they sinned or not, I no longer reminded them of the Law. They already knew that. Neither did I remind them of damnation and punishment flowing from it. Rather, I looked for the presence of the Holy Spirit or the lack of Her presence in them. What gifts of the Holy Spirit were missing or which one needed a stronger presence?
For example: the young couple who found themselves pregnant and unmarried. Did they fornicate and therefore bring upon themselves and their newly conceived child the punishment of God as the Law says? Since sin is always abusive in some way, was there present an abusive egoistical heart? Since sin grants pleasure for the moment, was guilt, the lack of peace and the presence of the other fruits of sin present now? Or was joy, peace and happiness still present in their hearts? As Jesus said, you can tell the tree by its fruit. The fruits of Love last far beyond the moment of encounter.
If all the discerning questions were positive, then who was I to declare to them that they had sinned! That their new child was conceived in sin! If the Holy Spirit is obviously still dwelling within with Her Divine Life of Love, then who was I to say that She is not! The Law is not the Holy Spirit. The Law is not Love, the Holy Spirit is. The same understanding can be applied to divorced and remarried couples.
I know people who have had these experiences. The fruits truly flowed from a heart of unconditional love, and because of that, they were able to grow more deeply in their love relationship with their marital spouse. True love never separates one person from the other.
The same distinctions flowing from the heart apply to one’s use of food, drink, drugs, work, idleness and whatever other actions that can provide pleasure in the body. Excessive abusive desires or normal healthy desires, to which did the person surrender in order to perform the action?
If we lead people only to the acknowledgment of the Law and to repentance they will soon fall back into the same abusive egoistical mentality. We need to lead them to living the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in order that their hearts can be transformed and healed of the remaining egoistical desires left over from their conversion. We all need to be lead further into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where not only is a new Life given, but also where the power flowing from the daily use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are given for the common good, heals us constantly of our excessive desires, down to their deep roots.
The Gifts are the original energy or grace that flows through and dwells within one’s whole being. They are the very life of the spirit of the person. What are these gifts? How do they function? How can we grow in them? What gift do we need in order to transform the pushing negative energy of our feelings of hurt, anger, resentment into divine unconditional love that flows from the Gifts? How did the early Christians live these gifts? What happened to them when they didn’t? The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 along with epistles of Paul and John tells us. This is the ministry of the Christian Church which needs to be lived out correctly and completely in the marketplace.
We have a tremendous advantage over those who lived before us because we know far more about the interaction of the body, soul and spirit. Psychology today is becoming spirit filled. Books like that of Dr. Jack Kornfield After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, or Caroline Myss Defy Gravity are very helpful in living daily the Love Commandment of our Beloved Holy Spirit because they go beyond the basics given in the New Testament.
“Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love…..God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him…….Love has no room for fear, rather, perfect love casts out all fear. And since fear has to do with punishment, love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid.” 1 John 4:7ff.
Yes, this is the Christianity that will transform the world. We do not know if the transformed world will be exactly like that at Pentecost, but we do know it will be a world of love for one another. How privileged each of us are to begin living it in our individual hearts today!