Monday, September 13, 2010

Christian Mystic

Would you be offended if someone called you a "Christian Mystic"?

For most of my life I would have felt being called a Christian mystic would put me out on the fringe of Christian society. I would have avoided the label Christian mystic for fear of having others look at me as one wandering too far into the internal, invisible world. I was too busy leading a church to be thought of as mystical. I was convinced being called mystical was a nice way of calling someone useless.

To me, a Christian mystic would be someone practically living in a passive trance. That would have been the last thing I would have wanted to be known for while leading a church and school with over 130 people on staff.

Quite frankly I developed this negativity toward what a mystic is without ever having seen a definition of what a mystic actual is. That was poor study on my part. I let popular culture form my opinion instead of careful thought.

Just today I came across a definition by a Quaker scholar name Rufus Jones that has challenged my concept of what a mystic would be. Here it is...

"The essential characteristic of mysticism is the attainment of a personal conviction by an individual that the human spirit and the divine Spirit have met, have found each other, and are in mutual and reciprocal correspondence as spirit with Spirit." Rufus Jones.

I feel I must now confess my ignorance. In light of this definition I would be happy to be called a Christian mystic. Why? Because...I have happily attained a personal conviction that the Spirit of Christ dwells in me, has found me and I have found Him, and we are in a mutual and reciprocal relationship of my spirit with the Spirit of Christ. I call this mutual and reciprocal relationship abiding because Jesus called it abiding.

Listen to Paul's words to see if you, too, might just be a Christian Mystic according to Jones' definition.

"The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Romans 8:16

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Gal. 5:16

"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Eph. 5:18

The title "Christian mystic" may be too compromised by popular culture to be of any practical use in most church contexts, but this definition gave me comfort today that an intense interest in the unseen spiritual world is not weird but needed - especially among strong leaders. Again, listen to Paul:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." II Corin. 4:16-18

Sounds a little "mystical" doesn't it? Sounds exactly like the mutual and reciprocal spiritual exchange that Rufus Jones was describing.

I don't plan on going around calling myself a Christian mystic any time soon, but if someone calls me a Christian mystic, I guarantee that my reaction to that title changed today under the definition used by Rufus Jones. In fact, I pray every believer I know will attain a deep conviction that their spirit has made an eternal connection with the Spirit of Christ, that they are forever found by His Spirit and can carry on a reciprocal relationship of love and filling with God's Spirit every day. I pray we will all abide.

I pray we might all walk in the Spirit so much so that someone might actually accuse us of looking too deeply into unseen things. That would be a good change for all of us - especially church leaders.

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