Home > Faith, Life > Live by the Spirit, live forever

Live by the Spirit, live forever

Something obvious struck me about the way things work “in the spirit” versus how things work in the world.  Repeatedly, I’ve listened to people, Christians, consciously describe the tangible world as “broken” and “fallen”, and, for a while, I’ve been questioning what that meant.  In my mind, it seemed that most, if not all, of the evil in the world could be explained by human action and/or inaction.  Famine, poverty, crime, all of it seemed to be part of some simple, nonspiritual, cause-and-effect relationship, and I felt that 1) thinking it through would lead everyone to that same conclusion and 2) understanding this people would be driven to act.  However, today I believe those two conclusions are false because they really don’t take into account how a lot of people actually feel about the state of the world.  How I currently feel about these conclusions has to do with the way that I view the spirit world.

Put simply, in the spirit world everything works like it’s supposed to (a bold claim, I know).  Good is rewarded, evil is punished, and grace is given as needed (and I don’t just mean forgiven sin, grace includes guidance through a trial, help in a crisis, strength for any scenario).  It is the realm in which fairy tales exist, a realm where the hero prevails, where the innocent are saved, where within each malady, a lesson lies.  I want to go back to the first sentence of this paragraph where I say, “Everything works like it’s supposed to.”  It’s interesting that how many, if not most, people feel, possibly as a result of something implanted into them from the time they were small, about how things “should” be never leaves them in spite of all that they see around them.

Actually, it’s possibly incorrect for me to say that because I haven’t done the real research.  I know there are religions and worldviews that a significant number of people adhere to that teach that the way things are is how they should be because…that’s the way they are.  I can understand how that can bring peace to a mind struggling to rationalize why the world is in the state that it’s in, and, actually, that’s the flaw in Conclusion #2 up above.  By seeing evil simply as part of a cause-and-effect relationship, it might lead to seeing it as a permanent fixture rather than something beatable and forfeiting the attempt to conquer it.   Also, I find it telling that even stalwart atheists who don’t believe in spirits or deities still believe that there’s an ideal that people “should” reach for in spite of disagreements on how to get there.  This brings me back to how pervasive the idea of a broken world is, at least, in Western society.

Now for a detour that will inevitably bring us back on the right route.

I recently read a comic book that explained why the Joker, a famous batman villain, did what he did.  It asserted that the Joker believed that his worldview was the true one and through his actions he could make it apparent to people.  The best example of this is in The Dark Knight where he tells the passengers of two different boats that if one of them did not set off the explosives on the other’s boat then both boats would explode.  It was his attempt to prove to the people what they were capable of if pushed, possibly to make them believe that they were truly capable of anything and that survival mattered more than right or wrong; it was his attempt to bring them closer to his way of seeing the world.  The thing that didn’t square with me about the Joker’s belief system was that if it was the truth then it should be playing itself out without his involvement; he didn’t seem to understand that he was trying to make it the truth rather than simply reveal the truth.  This is fine, of course, because he is a psychotic sociopath and making sense is not a prerequisite.  This got me thinking though.  In spite of what we see on the internet, read in magazines, or encounter in real life, something still seems to tell many of us, “This isn’t the way things should be,” regardless of the way things are.

Somehow, so many of us, rather than just wishing the world played by fairy tale rules believe that the world “should” play by fairy tale rules, but, unlike the Joker, we seem to have no good ideas on how to make that world our reality.  It occurred to me that maybe that was what living by the spirit was all about.   That living by the spirit is stubbornly refusing to play by the rules of a broken world not just because God said so but because it’s actually what a lot of us want.  That living by the spirit isn’t about being perfect because perfect people don’t need grace, and they sure don’t have anymore lessons they need to learn.  That living by the spirit can be our daily, personal attempt to live in utopia without actually being in utopia.  The truth that we want to see and wish to demonstrate is that THE Spirit is superior and capable of overcoming the current state of things.  It makes me reevaluate what Jesus and John and others meant when they proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand because it’s not about perfection.  It’s about good being rewarded, evil being punished, and grace given as needed, and when you, when WE, live like those rules apply who can say that the kingdom of heaven isn’t at hand?

Extra:  The title is a play on “Live by the sword, die by the sword” rather than just a random proclamation.  My understanding of  “live by the sword, die by the sword” is that after choosing to live life a certain way for so long, the consequences of doing so become unavoidable, but choosing to live life by the spirit wouldn’t result in “death by the spirit”.  In keeping with the fairy tale metaphor, it would instead result in a “happily ever after” ending which is why I went with the cute, but bold “live forever”.

Also, I don’t think Christians have a monopoly on “living by the spirit” as explained here, but I do think a Christian attempting to live by the spirit daily can be strengthened in ways that cannot be replicated by someone who doesn’t share the same faith.

Also, read “Bad Intelligence”, the earlier post, when you get the chance.  I have a feeling not many of you read it.

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  1. January 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

    “That living by the spirit can be our daily, personal attempt to live in utopia without actually being in utopia.”

    Great line from a great article – encouraging, practical words. In the arsenal of ‘swords’ by which we all live, you show how the Spirit is a weapon for good*, for greater good, to help mend a ‘broken’ world. Closer to the fairy tale every day sounds good to me.

    *Not sure if so-called weapons for good exist in reality as weapons by definition [a tool used to apply or threaten to apply force for the purpose of hunting, attack or defense in combat] are generally hurtful, but in keeping with the theme magic wands would be appropriate here.

    • January 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Nice metaphor, I forgot about the sword one, Biblically, and the wand one when it comes to Harry Potter Christian imagery.

  2. Dave
    January 27, 2010 at 4:51 am

    this explanation of “living in the spirit” seems so much closer to the truth than others i’ve heard. Not that the others were lies, its just that this emphasizes the right parts over the other parts. I love how you explain that it is a choice about a certain way of life.

    The only problem that I feel that one could encounter is the presence of something else in our conscience. Not only do we possess a feel for what the world “should” be like in certain situations, we also sometimes feel a similar sense of entitlement in not so good areas. I sometimes feel as if I deserve something that i really don’t, or feel that because injustice was done to me revenge is justified. These feelings feel so right sometimes, but over time you come to realization of how petty they really were.

    So I guess living in the spirit as you have laid it out makes total sense except we must commit ourselves to certain activities that help us develop a more accurate and less clouded conscience. Whether that be through prayer, meditation, etc. I feel as though its not a simple task to live in the spirit, live forever.

    • January 27, 2010 at 5:31 am

      “we must commit ourselves to certain activities that help us develop a more accurate and less clouded conscience”
      When you said that I was thinking of actual things you could do to be more selfless in general beyond just prayer, medication, etc. I think the more consistently you consciously try to put others ahead of yourself the more it changes your natural character.
      Romans 12:1-2 applies

      “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

      To me this says, kind of what you’re saying, you can’t just start trying to live by the spirit and expect your judgment to be perfect, but, as you consciously and daily try to live selflessly, your mind will start moving in the right direction.

  3. February 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Stumbled upon this just now in light of his recent death a relevant quote by a great historian:

    “And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” — Howard Zinn

    I’m with both of you in that it is important when living/acting for an ideal and improved world to constantly refine our framework of how our “should” is defined so as to keep in line with the Spirit as opposed to our own or others’ inclinations.

  4. February 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Unrelated but here was the article I grabbed the quote from, which criticizes Apple and the tech community for not using technology for greater social impact:


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