Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Room For Individualism

"The Word made flesh means,...that the Word proclaimed must become an act of charity....Charity here is to be understood as a concrete act of love."

Those two statements are taken from a paragraph in Adrienne von Speyr's marvelous book, "John Volume I: The Word Becomes Flesh ." I'm a big fan of von Speyr who was an associate of Urs Von Bathazar. She was a Catholic mystic philospopher who had an enormous impact on her church. Her books are not easy reads. This book is taking me weeks to read. I pick it up, read a few passages and put it down to mull over. Then I'll pick it up, either reread what I've read to make sure I understand it or proceed to stumble through a new passage. It is not recreational reading.

But despite the difficulty of reading her book, I've been profoundly challenged. The chapter I quote from at the beginning of this post really hit me. So much of my faith tends to slip into an individualistic, God and me, we are tight, personal faith that excludes rather than includes others. I was brought up under the belief that Christianity was about a "personal relationship" with God, so the emphasis was upon the building of a vertical personal worship pattern of prayer and study. It is highly individualistic and, as I've discovered, very selfish.

Ms. Speyr really explodes that view. She shows how John, in his book, illustrates that when the Word, who is Christ, comes to us, we are changed and pulled into the interpersonal life of the Godhead who is love. But the key point is that love is an interpersonal thing. It is shared. Just as love is shared in the Godhead, when we are filled with God's Spirit we are filled with the same love. It is a communal love. So when I'm filled with Christ, I am given the Love of God which searches out for a corresponding love of his image in others. That love compels me to love others taking me out of the individualistic religion of faith to a communal life of relationship with others. And, as Ms. Speyr points out, it is accomplished through individual acts of mercy and kindness shown to people we come in contact with.

I wish I had understood that many years ago. It probably would have saved me a lot of grief.
So, take this thought with you today. If you are filled with Christ's Spirit, you are filled with God's love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That love is dying to be shared. Shared with everyone, our friends, our enemies, our family, our co-workers, the hurting, the dying, the hungry, the outcast, the gays, anyone who is alive and breathing.

Read Adrienne Von Speyr's book if you dare. Yes, it's not a Dick and Jane read. It's tough sledding, but well worth the read. And for my Protestant brethers and sisters, get over your prejudices against Catholics and read this one. It will make a lot of your books look like sawdust.
This is red meat.

God bless.


  1. Sounds like a great book. I would say that often the root of our individualism is judgment. We judge that our piety is what makes us righteous rather that living in communal expressions of the communal Triune God. As Father Son and Spirit dance in self-giving love, may we to dance as we give away grace and love to others! Thanks for the post!

  2. Richard,
    Sounds like a great book and I would like to read it. I do like that quote you opened with.

    I'm reading N.T. Wright's, "The Challenge of Jesus" and he makes a similar point about the corporate nature of God's redemption through Jesus. Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He came to redeem a nation, and through that nation, the "nations", that is, the Gentiles. Sure, each conversion may be an individual thing, but we become part of something bigger, the Family of God.

    Another good book is "The Second Incarnation." He speaks of the church, Christians, as the second incarnation (Jesus being the first) because we are supposed to live like Jesus in the world.

    Great post!

  3. Awww Warren, there you gone and done it. More books to add to my want to read column. I'd better update my library card, because sure as heck if I keep buying books I'll go broke or rip the bookshelves off my walls due to the weight of all my books.