Growing Up Involves Participation in God's Larger Life

As we mature in our discipleship to Christ, our world should expand and grow larger too. As we grow spiritually, we will move into a larger sphere of reality while staying connected to our faith community and tradition.

Imagine living on a Great River and being part of a community that lives in one of the inlets. In that community there are certain guidelines and boundaries necessary to sustain a healthy community. In the community we form deep friendships. We provide and receive services. But we are not confined to that community. We navigate on the Big River and may be away for extended periods of time, but we always come back to our community.

We need our community, but think how limited life would be if we were confined to that inlet and never navigated the Great River. Unfortunately, many Christians remain locked into their little communities and faith traditions, never venturing out onto the Great River. They get bogged down in meticulously defining life in their inlet community, and are quite unaware and blind to the diversity and richness of life on the Great River.

I have no doubt that God abides with us in our small communities, but God is so much more. God’s Spirit pervades and permeates the Big River. God engages the larger world at many points and on many levels. Only as we are willing to risk and explore beyond our little inlet, do we become conscious of the Divine Reality that is so much greater, larger, and diverse than we ever imagined.

What can we do to venture out on the Great River? We could reach out in friendship to someone of a different faith tradition. We could expand our understanding by reading books on world religions that focus on their positive teachings and practices. We can ask God to open our minds and hearts so that we can discern God’s presence in encounters, conversations, actions, words, and experiences outside our Christian faith. We can become open to the possibility that God’s Spirit takes on other forms and speaks through other mediators than just through Jesus of Nazareth.   

In my earlier years I spent a great deal of time trying to get people to accept my doctrines, join my group, and think like me. Now I realize that God cannot be confined to a particular inlet, but is the Source of the Great River. Spiritual growth involves an expanding consciousness and awareness of the issues that the God of the Great River cares about: restorative justice, stewardship and care of the planet, peacemaking, fairness, the dignity and worth of all persons, poverty, oppression in all its forms, and systemic injustice and violence. And yes, God cares about the details of our lives too. Such is the greatness and largeness of God.

If all our time and attention are invested in defining, defending, and declaring our group identity without a larger frame of reference, then our group loyalty can easily become group superiority and idolatry. Without the prophetic critique of a larger vision, we become blind to our sin, we become blind to our egocentricity and complicity in evil.

Christianity that does not move beyond the inlet, that does not venture out into the Great River, is usually characterized by it exclusiveness and by what it is against. While Christianity that swims in the sea of abundant grace and diversity, is much more inclusive and known by what it is for. 


  1. Yes. Thank you. I keep thinking of the title of the book by J. B. Phillips: Your God Is Too Small.


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