So far, I have presented Ignatius of Loyola’s Principles at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises. The foundational principles are that humanity’s created purpose is to praise, reverence, and serve God and that the purpose of everything else in creation exists for us to use in the fulfillment of our end. However, when it comes to describing how this might look in life and practice, Ignatius uses the word indifferent.
“For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things…”
What does he mean? Doesn’t indifferent mean not to care? Aren’t we supposed to care about all of creation? The answer to that last question is a resounding, “Yes!” So what does he mean using the word indifferent?
Webster’s first definition for indifferent is, “marked by impartiality: UNBIASED.” (Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary., 2003.) Likewise is Noah Webster’s 1928 Dictionary, “Neutral; not inclined to one side, party or thing more than to another.” (Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American Dictionary of the English language., 2006.) Is this not what Ignatius means? He is not saying we should not care but we should not judge one thing against another in any other terms than the glory of God. Read how he explains it:
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created. (Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, 19. Emphasis mine.).
This is the point. If I am devoted to the glory of God, and to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, then my condition, my circumstances, and my worldly desires should always be of a minor import compared to the purpose of my creation, of my calling in Christ, and of my praise, reverence, and worship to God.
I don’t know about you, but I find this a most difficult way to live. Truth be told, I fail all the time. However, there is great news. Jesus Christ has reconciled us to God and covered our sin with his blood. Moreover, following his Ascension to the Throne, he has sent his Spirit to enable us to follow Christ in all things.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26, ESV)
And now, I have some questions about our current worldwide situation with the Corona Virus. I remind you that I have no absolute answers to my questions. They are questions of who is in charge of my life and what he desires of me. Each individual may or may not have to struggle as I do. I am called by God to love and serve him. Part of this service includes all of his Laws of justice and mercy. I do not want to harm my neighbor by spreading this virus. But some of what we are called by our world to do, such as “social distancing” seems to contradict other requirements. For example,
- How can the church worship without the main aspect of worship which is gathering?
- How can the church gather without human contact?
- Most obviously one of my answers was to start this blog. Yet I am deeply aware that a blog has nothing to do with communal worship. What else should I be doing?
- We are entering the holiest time of the year with the passion of Christ and his resurrection. How can the church celebrate when the church does not gather?
- If the church cannot celebrate the gospel through worship, what is our testimony to the world around us? Can God be truly glorified apart from our communal worship?
The easy answers to me are that God is glorified by our willingness to work with our communities to stop the spread of a disease. Yet this does not seem adequate to me. How did Christ deal with the sickness around him? How have his servants dealt with crisis and danger? How many saints went to the fire singing hymns of joy? Why did Martin Luther and his wife open their homes when the plague hit Wittenberg? Why did so many Christians continue to gather (yes, secretly) in Communist-ruled countries that wanted to quash all religions?
So, my personal predicament in all of this is fear of death over the fear of the Lord? God help me because my heart moves one way while my life lives another. May our God answer our prayers to end this pandemic. May he answer our prayers to love him above all else.