As Christians, we have a tendency to express very spiritual-sounding ideas. These ideas seem very religious and very reasonable. However, many of them reveal some flaws in our thinking about spirituality. They also contradict the life and teachings of Jesus. He is the most spiritual human being who has ever lived. So, we need to actually listen to him and stop trying to out-spiritual Jesus. Here are a few examples…
“All We’re Going to Do is Sing Forever”
Growing up, preachers told me that someday we would fly away to heaven, where we would sing forever and ever. Of course, that sounded better than the alternative, but it never sounded great. I was even told, “If you don’t like singing now, you’re not going to like heaven, because that’s all we’re going to do there.”
I’m sure people believe this is accurate and it sounds very spiritual. What could be more spiritual than an eternal worship service? However, this idea doesn’t align with the teachings of Jesus.
People likely got this idea from the book of Revelation, where there is a scene of God being praised continually. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook the important meaning of this scene in the context of Revelation. The heavenly hosts are not singing their favorite hymns. They are singing one song over and over, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God” (Revelation 4:8-11). In the next chapter, there is a new song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:6-14). Those are the two songs they sing.
There is nothing in the context, or the rest of Scripture, to indicate this is what we will do for eternity.
When Jesus spoke of eternity, he did not speak about an eternal song service. He said we will “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Jesus called it, “the new world” in which his followers would rule with him (Matthew 19:28-30). In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the master told his faithful servants, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21). Their joyful reward was not an everlasting song service. The master said, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”
Singing may be one of the things we do in eternity, but it won’t be the only thing. We will inherit the earth, the new world. In that new world, we will be given a stewardship to rule over with Jesus. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we will have life-giving work to do.
“Don’t Give Anyone the Wrong Impression”
Many Christians believe they need to avoid certain people and situations, not because they might sin, but because someone might see them and assume they are sinning. These Christians believe they are responsible not only for their actions, but also for the perception others have of them. They are trying to avoid guilt by association.
A common proof-text to support this idea is 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV), “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” However, the meaning of this verse is probably more like, “Abstain from every form of evil” (ESV). Paul isn’t saying, avoid anything that anyone might think is evil. He is saying, evil appears in many forms. So, don’t participate in any kind of evil, no matter its form.
It may sound like a very spiritual idea, but Jesus did not subscribe to the “guilt by association” theory. He kept himself from sin, but he did not keep himself away from sinful people. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He did this, knowing the religious leaders would say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). People wrongly assumed Jesus was a “glutton and drunkard.” They had the wrong impression about him, but he kept associating with “those people” anyway.
Do good deeds. Go where you’re needed and serve the people who need you. Don’t worry about what others might think about you. That’s the example Jesus set for us.
“Don’t Be Sad” and “Don’t Cry”
I regularly hear Christians scold themselves for being “selfish” when they are sad over a loved one’s death. They reason that their loved one is in “a better place,” so it would be wrong to want that person here with them. On multiple occasions I have even overheard Christians trying to console others with the words, “Don’t be sad” or “don’t cry.”
This kind of talk is inconsistent with the teaching and behavior of Jesus.
Jesus knew that the spirit of his friend Lazarus had been gathered to their fathers. Like the Lazarus in Jesus’ story, Jesus’ friend had been carried by the angels to “Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22). Even though Jesus knew he was in a better place, at the funeral, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Then, shockingly, he brought Lazarus back from the dead (John 11:38-44).
He wept and brought his friend back to life because Jesus hates death. The whole idea of death makes him angry, “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). He considers death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). An enemy that he has personally conquered, and will one day destroy completely.
Different people have different emotional responses to death. That is fine. For instance, some people cry a lot and others don’t. There is nothing wrong with either response. But do not think that weeping or wanting your loved one with you are signs of selfishness or spiritual immaturity. Jesus both wept and brought his friend back from the dead.
You can be sad and be confident that, because of Jesus, you will be reunited with your loved one. That is what hope is all about.
Conclusion: The Spirituality of Jesus
What do all these misunderstandings have in common? It seems to me, many of us practice a disconnected form of spirituality. We attempt to remain somewhat aloof, disconnecting ourselves from creation, our neighbors, and even our own emotions. We think that being spiritual means disengaging with what is physical. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being spiritual means living by the Spirit of God. It means following the example of Jesus. Jesus did not live a disconnected life. He firmly rooted himself in the physical world. He worked with his hands, he enjoyed meals with neighbors, and he wept at funerals. The mission of Jesus was not to further disconnect heaven and earth, but “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
Jesus is the embodiment of true spirituality. We cannot be more spiritual than him. But we can listen to him and follow his example.
I love you and God loves you,