Look to those who, either in history or in the present, model the Christian life by the way that they love, care for, and serve others.
In the chaos of the postmodern world, we find ourselves in at this time, divided, filled with lies, and noisy with distractions of every kind, we need some practical ways to deal with it all and to remain true to our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. Here are five things we can develop in our daily lives that will help us live that Christian life.
First and foremost is to develop a regular, daily habit of prayer. This can include participating in regular attendance at church. In the case of those Christian traditions that recognize sacraments, regular participation in those opportunities is a powerful source of grace. The Church knows that life is difficult and that God is both infinitely forgiving and eternally generous with his graces. To make ourselves present to God in prayer, in church, and in the sacraments, makes us more consciously aware of our relationship to God and opens us up to his mercy and generosity. Begin and end your day with personal, private prayer. Be in conversation with God throughout your day. In the good times of each day, pray with thanksgiving, and during the troubling moments, petition the Lord for his help and aid.
Second, we need to develop community. Remember that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, he is present. It is always a good thing to form Christian communities in his name, but it is important to remember that because of our broken humanity, even our Christian communities are not “perfect”. We cannot love everybody perfectly, but rather than spending time and energy deepening our enmities, we can pray for those who are a challenge to us, and if necessary, move on, without carrying grudges, or prejudices. Leave those challenges to the wisdom of God. More than anything, we need to develop what I will call here a “soul friend,” or a “spiritual friend,” someone close to us, someone who walks with us, who listens attentively to us when we share our struggles, and who can challenge us when we are getting off the narrow path, or falling short on our care for ourselves, and vice versa, of course.
The third discipline we need to develop is the discipline of study. We study in order to help us understand our relationship with God and others more clearly and more deeply. It is easier to believe when we know what it is that we believe. Read the scriptures, spiritual readings, theological essays, church teachings on various elements of the faith and its practical applications in our daily lives. Subscribe to a religious paper or magazine. Doing this will help you to understand, explain and to live out the Christian life more effectively.
It is important here to discern what is proper and valuable for study. What we receive from the media, social media, etc., is not very peaceful or helpful. In fact, it is usually the opposite of what we need. We should discern how much “news” and social media is good for us. We should regulate what we are taking in. Use more of the kinds of study that will help you grow as a follower of Jesus. Understanding your true relationship with God, and the world, is more important and more valuable for developing the spiritual life and how one lives in the world.
The fourth discipline is that of service. We know from Matthew 25:31-46 that we will not be judged by what we say we believe. We will be judged by how we lived our faith in the world, in our daily lives. We will be asked if we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, visited those in prison, or not. We will be told that when we did these things, or did not do them, we did them, or did not do them, for Jesus himself. Our lives are not just about us. They are about having Jesus at the center of everything that we say and do. He ought to be the focal point upon which we discern all of our choices and actions in this life. To see and to serve him in the suffering other, that is, both those at the margins and those who are closest to us, is to live the Christian life openly, purposely, and joyfully, no matter how the world chooses to understand it.
Finally, look to those who, either in history or in the present, model the Christian life by the way that they love, care for, and serve others. Imitate them, seek out their advice and their prayers for you. Avoid spiritual pride. Know that neither they, nor we ourselves, are, or ever will be, perfect in this life. Observe and imitate how they focus everything that they do on Jesus Christ. Know, too, that Jesus knows their limits and he knows our own. Neither they nor we are, or ever will be “the savior”. That belongs to Jesus Christ alone. Know that the best we can be is an instrument in the hands of God. He is All in All. We are only conduits of his love and there are countless models of those who have known this and lived this way. Love God and give yourself wholly to him and he will use you and your particular gifts and talents for his good and the good of others. Thanks be to God!