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What it means to be spiritual

From the January 29, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Scrolling through my social media accounts, something caught my attention: #IAmNotMyProfile. A quick read-through of some of the tweets carrying this hashtag brought up several posts, all refuting the claim that one’s identity could be condensed into a certain number of characters, or simply made up of some manipulated image or stereotype. The message was clear. We are all much more than a category subject to interpretation, whether we’re dealing with gender identity, digital identity, identity based on age, race, and personal preferences, or even mistaken identity.  

Toward the end of his career, Jesus had his own identity issues to deal with. Multitudes were crowding him and were healed, inspired, and fed, both spiritually and literally. The Pharisees and Sadducees kept provoking him. But who actually was he? There was confusion about this, as recorded in Matthew. When the disciples gathered together one day, Jesus asked them: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” 

Then Peter set the record straight: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:13–16). Peter saw beyond the human sense of things to the spiritual reality of Jesus’ identity—the Christ, the divine representation of God.

Mary Baker Eddy discovered the divine Principle behind Christ’s healing words and works and wrote about her discovery in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. What she articulated was a radical departure from defining oneself materially. A groundbreaking synopsis of her discovery known as “the scientific statement of being” establishes the allness of God and God’s relation to man, and the nothingness of matter. It starts, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter” and concludes with: “Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore, man is not material; he is spiritual” (Science and Health, p. 468).

What does it mean to be spiritual? The simple answer is that God, Spirit, has created us, so we reflect divine Spirit. The thrill of understanding God is that it helps us understand what we are, giving us insight into our own and everyone’s true spirituality. One spiritual insight can have a domino effect and bring out further spiritual insights. Science and Health explains that in this way: “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis. Mind manifests all that exists in the infinitude of Truth. We know no more of man as the true divine image and likeness, than we know of God” (p. 258).

We are not stuck with being known by a personal profile nor trapped in an inferior sense of self, but are known by God as the loved of Love.

It may seem radical to think of ourselves—our own true worth, dignity, and purpose—not originating from material and physical features or human history, but from a spiritual cause. But God, who is Life, Truth, and Love, is the only cause and source of life. We are spiritual. We are not stuck with being known by a personal profile nor trapped in an inferior sense of self nor smug and distanced from others by a superior sense of self, but are known by God as the loved of Love. 

By giving up cherished personality traits, moral weaknesses, longings and dependencies—material limited concepts that bring out fear, insecurity, and self-will—we lose nothing of value. Giving up these material, insubstantial claims leaves us free to embrace our spiritual individuality. Science and Health explains: “The individuality of man is no less tangible because it is spiritual and because his life is not at the mercy of matter. The understanding of his spiritual individuality makes man more real, more formidable in truth, and enables him to conquer sin, disease, and death” (p. 317).

Our spiritual individuality can overcome the limitations, evils, and sins of materiality. How? Our spirituality is our connection to Truth, Love, Spirit—all synonymous names for God—and is the reality and substance of our existence. Its radiance burns away all that is unlike Spirit. Spirit is supreme. In short, materiality is all that is unlike Spirit and leads thought downward, inward, and backward and ultimately self-destructs. Spirituality is that which leads thought upward, outward, and forward and ultimately multiplies the good. There is simply no material claim or worldly category that could ever contain the magnitude of our spirituality.  

At the end of each Christian Science church service, “the scientific statement of being” is read with a correlative reading from the Bible’s First John, attributed to the disciple John, considered by some scholars as the most-loved and longest-lived disciple. These verses explain with urgent tenderness how we can come to see beyond materially based identification to understand our spiritual heritage and what it means to be spiritual.  

“Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called ‘children of God’—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like that keeps himself pure, for he knows how pure Christ is” (I John 3:1–3, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English). 

Kim Crooks Korinek
Associate Editor

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