Reflections: Physical vs Spiritual?

The Gnostics eschewed the physical.  They believed that the “real” God was far above and untouched by His physical creation.  In some ways, this attitude is perpetuated in modern mainstream Christianity.  The trinity, for example, ensures that God is so different that we cannot relate to Him.

Well, I actually was going to write about something else this morning.  However, life is an interesting journey.  It is a spiritual journey, no doubt.  Yet, we are physical creatures who often relate best to the physical.

That’s why Jesus spoke in parables.  Sure, He did it to confound those who weren’t meant to understand.  However, let’s not ignore: 1. The parables that others did understand (such as when the Pharisees perceived He was speaking about them and so plotted to kill Him), 2. The ones who did understand His parables had a lasting physical parallel in mind that helped them to remember the lesson.  It’s this latter point that is important for our discussion.

Perhaps that is also why we have the Holy Days.  An elder described them once as “a bit of theater”.  Every year in the appropriate season, Israel was to put on a play.  They were to act out things in their lives that reflected God’s perfect plan.  Of course, they never really did understand because of their failure to keep them up year after year combined with their other idolatrous and sinful acts.

To understand either the parables or the Holy Days, one’s mind must be opened by God.  The Spirit opens our mind to understanding the why of the physical.  The vivid imagery of the physical in turn helps us to understand and remember the spiritual.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  They become intertwined and part of our very character.

I want to dissect this even further.  What we do in the physical realm affects our spiritual well being.  Our spiritual well being affects what we do in the spiritual.  In other words, our physical actions affect our attitudes and vice-versa.  This can lead to an uplifting, a building up of spiritual progression.  However, it can also lead to a  downward spiral that can nose dive into a crash in our physical and/or spiritual lives.

In short, this entire physical existence is a bit of theater.  It is an acting out of our spiritual condition.  However, even going through the actions in the physical realm turn around and either improve or take away from our spiritual condition.

When we have a bad attitude, we can begin to treat others badly.  There are consequences for this.  All of this is fed back into our spiritual condition and leads to a decline in our attitude, which creates a negative cycle downward.  We can realize our worst fears because we actually bring them about.  We justify our bad attitudes because we are bringing about attitudes around us that were created by our own bad attitude.  It quickly becomes a cycle that will either have to be broken or it will break us.

However, when we have a good attitude, just the opposite can happen.  A positive cycle of encouragement also encourages others.  Their own uplifting of spirits in turn reinforces our own attitudes to the positive.

Friends, even those in the world understand these things.  Shouldn’t we who have God’s Spirit within us understand them the more?

 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8, King James Version)

 11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

 12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11-13, King James Version)

I have seen those who would allow themselves to become so bitter that they begin to mistreat their spouses, withdraw from others and eventually leave the Church entirely.  That’s a perilous position!

Seek help.  Seek counseling.  Do whatever it takes to endure.  That word is used many times in the Bible for a reason.  However, to be able to endure, we must be in the right attitude to begin with.

Question: If God will grant us the Holy Spirit if we ask, if God will grant wisdom if we ask, if God will grant us forgiveness if we ask, then why can’t we ask Him for the power to have the right attitude?  And, if it doesn’t happen the first time, then shouldn’t we seek it like the woman who bothered the unjust judge (Lk 18:1-8)?

God is not unreachable, unlike what the Gnostics taught.  That’s why certain religions have numerous intermediaries, as their “God” cannot be contaminated by the physical.  The real God makes Himself accessible to us.  He will hear our outpourings, but He does test us to see if our outpourings are sincere and based upon the right motives.  So, we must continually come before Him.  If we quit asking, how can we possibly say we “endured”?

Our attitudes and spiritual condition affect what we do in this life.  What we do in this life is a lot like theater.  But, even as actors on a stage become transformed by the parts they are playing, so are we changed and conditioned by the actions we take and the words we speak in this life.  They will in turn affect our spiritual condition and our standing before our Creator.

If we forget this, if we try to compartmentalize our lives, as Americans are so wont to do, then we can lose sight of that connection.  Our actions and thoughts become disjointed.  We are then in a state of cognitive dissonance.  Eventually, they lead to a sort of hypocrisy that will eventually start to poison us.  This poison can and does kill – quite permanently.

We must allow God to write the story, His story, within our lives.  God wants us – heart, mind and physical life.  Rather than being separate from our physical lives, He wants us to live our physical lives out in His way.

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