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Friday, February 28, 2020

The Problem with Being Good

How to Love the Hard Stuff

Whether or not you are in a tradition that encourages spiritual practices during Lent, it’s fair to say that every Christian tradition encourages us to undertake them at one time or another. So it might as well be the 40 days leading up to Easter! At any rate, this edition of The Galli Report will focus on ideas and practices that foster insights in the spiritual life.
The first piece, How my Lent of love has created my love of Lent,” is grounded in a seemingly Catholic understanding of sacrifice—that is, a sacrifice we make can work not only for our benefit but for the benefit of those we love. Protestants tend not to think like this, but Jesus alludes to this reality when, at least in some manuscripts, he suggests that prayer combined with fasting can have a powerful effect (Mark 9:14–29). It’s certainly not a formula with a guarantee of success, but it seems that prayers grounded in personal sacrifice can be especially effective. The author puts it this way:
After years of breaking up with Lent mid-season, I finally cracked the code. Lent is about love. The love that Jesus Christ has for me and for you. To really experience Lent, I had to put love into it. I realized that Lent wasn’t about what the sacrifice was, but who the sacrifice was for.
The Problem with Being Good
Starting at the youngest of ages, our culture preaches to us that we shouldn’t denigrate ourselves (reject low self-esteem!) but instead consider ourselves fundamentally good (embrace high self-esteem). On a purely psychological level, there is some truth to this. But spiritual theology complicates this picture in many ways, and one way is this:
Thinking of oneself as a good person can lead to deception. If your idea of being good is about following the rules given to you through your church or society, even if you say you believe in Jesus Christ, you may be on the wrong path.
So writes one Orthodox deacon reflecting on a passage from St. Theophan.
What’s the Fall Got to Do with It?
When it comes to public theology—how we think and act as Christians in the public square—what verse, more than any other, should inform us? John Zmirak, a senior editor of The Stream makes a case for God’s speech to Adam after the Fall. If nothing else, it’s a thought-provoking meditation on how our faith can inform how we work to improve our national life together.
Rooted Together
One of the hardest spiritual disciplines is church—especially staying in church when there is every good reason to bail. And the longer one is in churches through life, the more good reasons one can find to give up on them. Kimi Harris, in How the Forest Inspired Me to Stay in Church,” quotes German forester Peter Wohlleben, to suggest that maybe the way God made trees is the same way he made us:
A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.
A $29 Cup of Coffee
Not sure what to make of this video on coffee fanatics. On the one hand, it suggests these people have too much time and money, and not a deep enough purpose in life. On the other hand, it is an example of the glory of human ingenuity and creativity. I suppose it’s like a lot of life in this fallen but glorious world.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli

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