A complaint that comes to one’s ears rather frequently is that people don’t talk about spiritual things as much as they once did. The precise truthfulness of such a complaint may be hard to assess. Unfavorable comparisons between the present and the good old days are often loaded with more nostalgia than precision.

Yet, we would be unwise and insensitive if we dismissed this particular complaint too readily.

Maybe it’s true. It is not hard to believe in view of the fact that many people, also Christian people, keep radios or TV sets blaring and blinking much of the livelong day. Such a constant bombardment of sound and sight certainly leaves little time or capacity for spiritual conversation and meditation. Possibly we should ask the question whether some religious people find in listening to religious broadcasts hour after hour a substitute for what used to be gained at least in part from spiritual conversation.

What is involved in the kind of spiritual conversation whose neglect is often lamented today?

The answer that promptly and properly presents itself is that such conversation is the natural expression of a genuine and live interest in the Word of God, in the many facets of God’s Kingdom, and in the well-being of the church of Jesus Christ. Such conversation generally reveals a heart that finds its first love in the things of God. “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart [and mind] be also.” How many readers of these lines are in this class?

Such conversation, then, reveals a heart that truly loves God. Is there anything else that is spiritually significant in such conversation? At this point, it seems to me, clear perception is called for. If I am not mistaken a fairly common starting point in such a person-to-person meeting of hearts can be stated thus: “You know, I sometimes find it hard to believe that God is near, or even that he is real.” Please read that statement with care. One who knows anything at all about a human being’s inner life detects a wealth of meaning in such a remark. Such a remark suggests the presence of deep and real cravings for understanding, fellowship and love. Such a remark is a pointer to an inmost heart that needs strength and support, a heart that seeks warm interpersonal communion.

If this evaluation is correct, then spiritual conversation accomplishes more than the satisfaction of an interest in spiritual things. In fact in some cases this may not be the most satisfying consequence of such conversation. The most satisfying aspect may be the meeting of a deep inner need for understanding, fellowship and love. Those who deal intimately with people in their problems and troubles tell us over and over that what many people need is a friend who will listen to them, some one to whom they can verbalize their inner tensions and yearnings.

But wait—what has happened to the “spiritual” conversation? If all that is needed is a person who will be a good and sympathetic listener, then perhaps the conversation can be about the Kingdom or about the weather, just so there is warm interpersonal communion. Here again discernment is called for. Obviously the deep personal benefits and satisfactions from such conversations are qualitatively and immeasurably greater if the talks are held in a context of the greatness of God, of the wonder of his amazing love in Christ, of the faultlessness of the care of the Good Shepherd for his sheep.

“Let’s talk about spiritual things.” We may be instrumental in helping some anxious, troubled soul find the peace that passeth understanding. Indeed, in this relatively Simple process we may be fulfilling in an especially sensitive way our Lord’s “new commandment…that ye love one another.”



Only minutes after the news was Bashed of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy commentators began speaking of that dastardly deed in terms of the question, “Who is really guilty?” By this time it is a very old subject in the way in which such things can age so quickly, but somehow it is not yet devoid of interest and concern.

President Kennedy had many good qualities, one of which was a willingness and a boldness in the face of controversy. All will remember the incident in which he reacted with no little passion to the announcement of a rise in the price of steel. I am inclined to think that things went too far too fast on that occasion, but I am also appreciative of the fact that a president was willing to take so difficult a position without the usual evidence of carefully calculated political assessment of the consequences.

But controversy brings feeling, high feeling. It always asks its participants to be mindful of those things which the heat of controversy frequently burns out of human awareness. No doubt of it: many people hated Mr. Kennedy! And although he could not help but be impressed with the fact that his stand on many things would arouse such feeling, with typical courage he chose to make his way through the heat and dust of our national and international history as a participant and crusader rather than as a by-stander or an opportunist.

The solution to all this, offered by some, is that we eliminate controversy. When reading the lamentations of many these days, I get to feel that such people believe that if only everyone agreed with us, with our advanced, generous, sympathetic, obviously right position, then we would not have such terrible experiences as we suffered on November 22. Especially the radicals ought to be eliminated, and most particularly the “radical conservatives”—strange as that combination of terms might seem!

In my opinion such suggestions are both unreal and untrue.

It is true that there is such a thing as corporate responsibility, and of this moral reality Christian people seem less and less conscious. If I belong to a church, to a service club, to a professional society, to a nation governed by constitutional law, to a labor union, to a political party, to a family—and so forth!—I assume a responsibility for things beyond those of my own personal doing. This is a great risk. Some have said that it would be wise to avoid it by eliminating or delimiting all personal association.

Scripture, however, speaks of the God of the Covenant who saves a people and re-establishes a race in Christ Jesus, humanity’s new root. Whatever the cost, we must speak with and to one another, wrestling, arguing, conferring, battling, since we may not give way to the idea that the solution is best achieved by the personal elimination of my neighbor rather than by the personal conversion of my fellow man!

What we need, therefore, is not less argument, but better argument, stronger debate, more sincere representation of point-of-view-together with the fervent prayer for grace which will enable us to do this, mindful of him whose high sense of corporate responsibility compelled him to take up a Cross in order to atone for the sins of a people.