Boisterous or shy, domineering or supportive, humans are a varied mix. People reveal personality through facial expression, body language, and verbalization. We have but to walk through one day interacting with others to observe the expansiveness of the differences among personalities. In contrast to this diversity is a shared, common experience of living within the nature of personality as a mix of intellectual and emotional dynamics. Personality as formed in a human drives behavior, whether the behavior is planned or spontaneous. Springing from deep within the natural being, a person reacts to life. The spontaneous reactions are often hardest to understand. For example, a person might sometimes react to a given situation in conflict with an intellectual understanding of a stated personal value system.
A debate long argued between psychologists and sociologists turns on the following question: Are humans agents in their destiny or victims? Most folks would agree humans at least desire to become agents acting on behalf of themselves and towards goals of their own choosing. Yet, anti-social or self-destructive behaviors which spring seemingly uncontrollably from deep within a person are often explained or justified by playing the victim card. Christians introduce a spiritual component into such a discussion based on the words of Jesus from John 8:34, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." So, there is more to consider about why people behave the way they do besides the personality. We factor in sinfulness.
I am addressing the magnificently complex issue of the human soul. Beginning in the nineteenth century and developing rapidly and intricately during the 20th, modern man created the science of psychology to describe why humans behave as they do. In college, I was required to take developmental psychology. Early in the course, the professor was discussing disciplining children. We were instructed that children would behave in order to gain something they desired but had lost to parental prerogative. The question was asked what two through five year old children might want so completely as to always surrender to the will of the parent. The professor replied that parents should withhold love from disobedient children. Herein is observed fully the foolishness of the modern intellect.
The Father disciplines His children through the power of unconditional love. The wisdom of man believes in the power of conditional love. Conditional love is the vehicle by which humans have learned to manipulate other humans. Such an approach spawns victim mentalities, stirs natural selfishness to grab desperately for more, and shrouds the truth of love in a warped logic with no life. The renewed life in spirit is the fullness of truth sought by people, but hidden from their view. In being born of the spirit and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, anyone may be freed from the avarice and self-centeredness of the fallen nature. However, the benefit of in spirit living extends further. Growing into the new creature reality, the soul learns to react differently to the world in which it finds itself as compared to old nature ways. The Christian who practices communing with the in-dwelling Presence of Jesus is able to respond with authentic love, joy, and peace. How compelling it is to be with a person who never seeks to manipulate or gain advantage in the relationship! How salty to the soul to experience a human whose response is both springing from within as a function of personality and simultaneously reflecting the way of Christ.
When I began this series, I predetermined a path through topics which I hoped facilitated a discussion on Christian spiritual understanding and growth. This growth is a spiritual altering of the condition of the soul which increases the believer as an agent to others of the Father’s love. For me, the Christian faith is about understanding the love of God as a release into the fullest possible and God-inspired abundant life. The "abundance" is not material blessing. Rather it is an ability to see into the spiritual condition of the surrounding environment and choose responses which pour life into people. This knowledge of loving with the Holy Spirit from within as the Source is the basis for authentically living in God, evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit in all circumstances.
My journey has required that I recognize and die to selfishness not just in thoughts, but behind my core motivations. I cannot do such in my own understanding or in my own strength. The Christian experience is a human experience of God’s love. I believe maturity in Christ mentioned in Ephesians four is a function of growing in the pure love of God. Such is best described as in the spirit. I do not know all that those three words mean nor imply; but I do know if we are in God and God is Spirit –and such is the witness of the Word of God—we cannot separate spirit from what it means to be a Christian. Further, I believe we need not connote spirit as something which is of God but unfathomable. God has not asked us to be or do that which we cannot understand.
So how then do we learn and know the way in spirit? I suggest each may chart a course that is a function of personality and therefore individualized. What applies to one, may not necessarily apply to another. Yet make the desire to understand a request unto the Father. God will be faithful to bring conviction and the guidance needed by the individual to learn this way of life. The commonality among us will be of learning to hear and obey the conscience which is understood as entrusted to the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. The gospel message of Christ, Him crucified for sin and resurrected is completed by recognizing that God has now filled human vessels with the Holy Spirit.
Last post in my planned series is up next.