Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The problem of the super-spiritual Christian

I am trying not to write this post in anger, because super-spiritual people are hard to deal with.  I also realise that we need to be careful when writing about any sin, in case we encourage judgementalism.
 
The issue I am grappling with is how to deal with super-spiritual people.
  
What do I mean by a super-spiritual people?
  

1.  Super-spirituals believe that they are more spiritual than most other Christians.  Another way of putting this is that they are proud, arrogant, judgemental and unloving.
  
2.  Super-spirituals generally believe that they are more spiritual than other Christians based on selective criteria.  For example, some think they are more spiritual because they are more expressive in praise, others believe they are more spiritual because they hold to certain doctrines and still others because they judge people by certain legalistic rules.  So you can have super spirituals that are raving-charismatics, ultra-fundamentalists or any other theological stripe (indeed many a militant atheist displays attitudes like those of the super-spirituals).
   
3.  The tragedy for most super-spirituals is that they are not easy to love.  If they are married, their marriages tend to be unhappy.  They tend to be either negligent or overbearing parents.  Their conversations are full of negativity and complaint.  They are resistant to being taught, because they think they know better than everyone else.
   
4.  Super-spirituals often find it hard to settle in churches, and so can find themselves drifting from one church to another or sitting on the fringes of the church.  Sometimes super-spirituals congregate together in churches that place a great emphasise on denouncing other groups. Sometimes super spirituals are found in good churches and are active (but they like to think their churches are better than all the others).
   
But how can we help them?
   
Perhaps we need to begin by repenting of our own specific sins and weaknesses.  Jesus told us to take the log out of our own eye before we examine the speck in another person's eye.  The lack of love I sometimes feel towards those I may have 'judged' to be super-spiritual may actually be a more serious thing than their supposed super-spirituality.
  
Then there is the need to apply radical love.  I remember asking a wonderful pastor his advice on how to deal with a difficult person.  He responded by saying, 'make sure that they never have any reason to doubt your love for them.'  Super-spirituals need real friends.  They are often unhappy people.  They need friendships that are so secure that they can begin to face their own weaknesses.  They need people who will challenge them, rather than simply listen to their rants; but this challenging has to be done with the gentleness and compassion of Christ.  They need to be challenged about the centrality of love in spirituality, and the awfulness of slander.  Their enthusiasm and passion needs to be channelled in healthy directions.
  
The truth is that I am a little bit at a loss on how to deal with super-spirituals.  Maybe you are too!  Perhaps you have friends who want to argue ever minor point of theology.  Perhaps you know people whose beliefs are comforted by their love of finding fault in others.  Some peoples love of their own fellowship is based on believing that their church is better every other.  Indeed, you may struggle with some super-spiritual traits yourself; I certainly have had a know-it-all attitude at times (and believe me I did not know it all!).
   
May God give us all grace to be kind to each other; may the gospel of mercy keep us humble; may the in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit produce His fruit of love.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is very well stated. As a former super-spiritual, let me say that Christ never gave up on me and He restored me over a period of several years. Nothing is impossible with Christ. If you are completely fed up, understandably so...give that person to Him. He will take care of it. I am living proof.

To whom it may concern said...

Good advice anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Ever since my wife got the gift of speaking in tongues it has been difficult to serve alongside her. She comes off a bit holier than thou and plays the Holy Spirit in my life. Her expectation of me is to lead the super Christian life but it drives me away where I know if I serve I have to do it alone.

John Bradford said...

Anonymous of 14 May 2016 at 19:21 just proved the point made. If anyone shakes my faith it is the super-spiritual. Lack of humility, no self-awareness or self insight - they drive people away. I don't get mad with them anymore. Well, I try not to. Love them being anonymous - real courage, that.