Three Queries on Communal Spiritual Growth

The other day on my way home I was thinking about my faith and stumbled upon three questions I thought worthy of thinking through aloud with you:

1. How do I love you God?
2. How do We love you God?
3. How do they love you God?

These are three really simple questions but I think they may help us get at a thicker, more communal, spiritual formation.

First, when we ask these three questions together we recognize that our lives are in continual flux and always adapting to the cultures and people around us. This ever-changing character of our lives in relationship to the world around is an essential part of our spiritual development. So when we think in terms of spiritual growth we must always remember we are not individuals in isolation, but social and cultural beings – not only do we have our own stories, but the stories of the cultures and traditions we find ourselves in have a great impact on the way we understand and love God (and the world).

Secondly, these three questions are aimed not just at the cultural aspects of spiritual life but also the communal. When I as “How God can I love you?” I must also ask “In what ways are “we” (the faith community of which I am apart and my tradition as a whole) showing our love for you, Lord?” But if we ask these two then we must also ask of those outside our communities, both believers and non-believers, “How do they love you?”

It’s really easy to revert to the privatized Christianity of the liberal-modern world. I am on my journey and you are on yours – the two are independent and unrelated. This mindset is selfishly individual and non-holistic, it believes that others can only suggest things to me, but cannot effect my journey unless I so desire. It believes that we are people in isolation. Spirituality then gets pushed into the private spheres of life.

But this is not real Christianity. We are dependent on one another, people located with communities, cultures, and families that we did not always choose. These people and histories form us, if we are to “grow” spiritually we must ask questions that keep these factors in the light.

In asking these three questions we may begin to find stories and examples of following an loving God in today’s world, with today’s people in ways that have gone unnoticed to us.

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Published by Wess Daniels

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

5 thoughts on “Three Queries on Communal Spiritual Growth

  1. Great food for thought… I’ve been mulling it over off and on since you posted this. Four worthwhile counterpart questions for the counterpart command would be:
    How do I love others?
    How do we love others?
    How do they love others?
    How do You God love us (humans)?

    One question though: where is the benefit in asking how non-believers love Him? Certainly there is much we can learn from them in how they love people. But their love for God is, by definition, sorely incomplete. Am I missing something as I think through this?

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