Way of Life
People sometimes ask: “How can I lead a Christian life when faced with the busy demands, temptations and choices involved in living in today’s world?” Christian writers throughout the years have suggested that we establish and follow a Rule of Life. I admit that this phrase puts me off a bit, because the word, Rule, suggests that everybody must adhere to a particular regimen. Referring to a Way of Life is more useful to me. The first Christians were known as followers of “The Way” (Acts 9:2). What might a Christian Way of Life look like?
Regularity and Accountability
In today’s culture, the busyness of life, instant communications, constant interruptions, and seemingly endless choices, make it difficult to establish any sort of routine. The rate of change in our culture is fast, and often disconcerting. Many of us flee to our churches in search of some comfort in the familiar, only to find that they, too, are not the same as they used to be. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our reaction to it. For our spiritual sanity and growth, we can put some regularity into our prayer life, our way of learning, our fellowship life, and our worship life. This requires an element of self-discipline. Without self-discipline, there is unlikely to be Christian discipleship. Regularity and self-discipline do not mean rigidity. We need to be accountable to God, to ourselves, to others we know, to the Church, and to the world we live in.
The Way of Prayer
A Christian Way of Life includes a regular time for quiet prayer. Although I often fail at this myself, I know that if prayer, in its many forms, can become as consistent as eating regular meals, we will be immeasurably spiritually nourished. We are all unique; consequently the ways in which we regularly practise prayer will be different. I hope in these Prayer Matters articles that I give some useful suggestions on different forms and styles of prayer. Suffice to say, regular times of prayer and meditation are an essential ingredient in a Way of Life. Prayer is being accountable to God.
The Way of Study and Reflection
St. Paul said, “Have this mind in you which is in Christ Jesus.” A Christian Way of Life involves nurturing our mind, seeking the truth through study and reflection. Prayerful study of Scripture and the writings of others is essential to spiritual growth. Study and reflection of visual art, movies, videos, Facebook entries, podcasts, to name a few, are also sources of learning and growth. One of the great advantages of today’s technologies is that these genres are now readily available to us at little or no financial expense. However, discipline and care are needed to choose those things that are useful for our inner growth. Often the recommendations of others are very useful (see the Way of Fellowship below). Some of us will benefit from taking formal courses from institutes of learning. Additionally, Christian education events, Parish and Diocesan newsletters, Facebook pages, newspapers, and emails provide opportunities for study and reflection and are valuable sources of spiritual growth. Time taken for study and reflection is being accountable to ourselves.
The Way of Fellowship
The Way of the Christian Life is not a solitary endeavour. It involves the fellowship, encouragement and companionship of others. Probably the best way to practise the Way of Fellowship is to be part of a small Christian fellowship group. Such things as participating in a regular Bible Study, being part of a Prayer Group, belonging to what the Cursillo Community calls a Group Reunion, are good ways of regularly praying, learning from each other and encouraging each other. It is in small fellowship groups that we can hear of useful resources for study and reflection. We need to remember to let Christ be the leader in a group. Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.” Fellowship is being accountable to others.
The Way of Worship
The Christian life always leads into the whole experience of the Body of Christ; a Way of Life always includes the corporate worship of the Church. Anglicans have a rich tradition of corporate worship that has been shaped by the past, nurtures us in the present, and looks to the future. The Christian who establishes a Way of Life comes to the liturgical acts of the Church (worship) with the fervour that makes them spiritually alive and also ignites the faith of others. Worship is being accountable to God through the Church.
The Way of Christian Action
The Christian Way of Life is not solely one of belief and trust in God; it is the way of getting beyond ourselves and serving others. It is a Way of responding to the needs of others, and showing the world what the Christian response is to the troubles and needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. The word we often use these days is “Mission”. Our Mission is to help others and to bring the Christian message of love, reconciliation, and peace to those whom we encounter. Christian Action is being accountable to the world we live in.