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Practical Spirituality: Reality and Truth


The scene: Primitive South Pacific islanders sit in makeshift control towers, wear imitation headphones carved from coconuts, talk into wooden “microphones”, and wait beside imitation landing strips.

The purpose: To attract the wealth of cargo the islanders saw during World War II when soldiers did the same things. Back then, ships, airplanes, and parachutes miraculously arrived with a cornucopia of goods the indigenous islanders had never seen before – food, clothes, weapons, medicines, building supplies, and more.

The belief: Performing the same rituals as the islanders saw the soldiers do will one day convince the spiritual powers to send those riches to the faithful islanders. Called “cargo cults”. Some still linger today.

The reality: Symbolism and rituals never attracted the cargo planes. Radios, a global war effort, manufacturers, and technological societies did. In their primative ignorance, the islanders built a belief around what they saw and then hoped for the best. Their belief and faith were unquestionable! But it doesn’t matter, because believing doesn’t make it so.

That’s where this illustration leads us to practical spirituality. We get to choose whether Reality is our ally or is ignoring us when we choose what to believe. Believe truth and faith is mighty. Believe a fantasy and faith is wasted.

The same goes for what we say and expect others to believe. In the Ten Commandments, God gives a fundamental spiritual law of the universe: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) In other places Jesus warns against deception and prescribes direct honesty.

Honesty aligns our words and actions with Reality. Dishonesty isolates us from Reality into a fantasy world… our own “island”. The first gospel as preached by John the Baptist was “repent” which presupposes telling the ugly truth about ourselves. (Matt 3:1-6) So, aligning ourselves with Reality – speaking the truth – is the first step to appreciating God’s salvation and grace.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Reality – the truth – refuses to change to suit us. Our only choice is to cooperate with it by learning and telling the truth. Or in the case of Jesus, learning the Truth.

Here begins practical spirituality – separating truth from fiction.

Or else we can join the island natives, faithfully hunkered over symbolic radios and completely bewildered why the spirits never send the cargo riches.


Mike Pulley

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