The word spiritual is mentioned more in 1 Corinthians than in any other book of the Bible. At first it looks like irony. Not one New Testament church was more problematic than that one. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that Paul wasn’t positively appraising Corinthian spirituality. After his glowing description of their eternal standing in Christ (1:4-9), he went on to say that he couldn’t speak to them as spiritual people (3:1). They just didn’t know what spirituality actually meant.
And they aren’t the only believers who have ever gotten into a confused state. I just finished a magazine article in Christianity Today entitled “A Candle in the Darkness.” It was horrifying. In short, children of missionaries had been sent to special schools in Africa while their parents were in the field. The school was a special kind of hell where the children experienced physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse at the hands of their teachers. Who were the teachers? Adjuncts to the mission effort, Christians who felt called to perform a service for the missions parents. The author of the article, Wess Stafford, wrote, “The people who read us Bible stories and beat us during the day, prowled the dorm halls at night, preying on the defenseless.” And yet I’ll wager that every one of them would have proudly donned the mantle of “spiritual.” Think we need to talk about what constitutes real spirituality? Yes, I thought so.