REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of November 14, 2021
Live with Charity (Love) and Contentment: Phil. 1:9; 4:12
We are in Week 41 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation, which means we are in the home stretch of our study. This week we’ll look at Rules 4.65-66: Live with Charity (Love) and Contentment. While it may seem a bit odd to pair these two together, it really is not odd at all. In fact, I would posit that it is impossible for us to live and grow in love without first finding contentment. And the key to contentment is found in the concept of spiritual indifference.
When we typically think of indifference, it is not a positive word. Indifference is associated with apathy or a lack of care. But that is not the case with spiritual indifference. Spiritual indifference is at its core spiritual freedom. It is a state in which we gratefully hold all of God’s gifts, but we hold them lightly, free to embrace them or let them go as the circumstances and God’s calling on our lives dictates. In spiritual indifference we find our identity and fulfillment not in our vocations, our families, or our possessions. We find our identity and fulfillment in Christ and Christ alone. We embrace with the Apostle Paul the way of life he describes in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy times of plenty, nor does it mean that we don’t mourn in times of difficulty or want. What it does mean is that shifting circumstances should not dictate our outlook on God, his goodness, and his call to love and serve others. When we are truly spiritually indifferent, we are so rooted in God’s love for us that there is no circumstance (good or bad), no relationship, and no possession (or lack thereof) that can shake our identity in Christ and our commitment to his mission. It is then that we can identify with the kind of contentment Paul expresses in Phil. 4:12.
Though it may seem a bit counterintuitive, it is in spiritual indifference that we find the path to living a life of love or charity. Spiritual indifference frees us from expectation in our relationships with and service of others. We are literally freed to love and respect others unconditionally because we have all the love and acceptance we need in Jesus Christ. Through spiritual indifference, we are able to grasp the depths of God’s love and acceptance of us. That love is the source of our identity and security. And because of that, the love and acceptance of others is superfluous. We love and embrace the love of others when it is offered, but we are not dependent upon such love. We are free to love and serve others as God desires without thought as to whether such love will be returned in kind. We are free to love as Jesus loved on the cross, thinking of others even as his life ebbed away.
- When you hear the word “indifference” what comes to mind? Is it positive or negative?
- Ignatius of Loyola was one of the first to discuss the concept of spiritual indifference. For Ignatius, the key to spiritual indifference is identifying “disordered attachments”, or those things to which we cling too tightly. What might be considered a disordered attachment for you? What is it about that thing, person, vocation, or relationship that causes you to cling to it so tightly?
- How does spiritual indifference lead to contentment? How does a lack of spiritual indifference interfere with our contentment?
- How does spiritual indifference allow us to love and serve others more freely?
- Consider your relationships which involve conflict. What expectations are not being met in those relationships? How might finding your identity and love in Christ change your expectations in those relationships?