Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). The path that leads to “fullness of life” is discipline. There are four major aspects of the human person – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. When we eat well, exercise often, and sleep regularly, we feel more fully alive physically. When we love, when we give priority to the significant relationships of our lives, when we give of ourselves to help others in their journey, we feel more fully alive emotionally. When we study our vision of our self, God, and the world expands, and we feel more fully alive intellectually. When we take a few moments each day in the classroom of silence to come before God in prayer, openly and honestly, we experience life more fully spiritually. All of these life-giving endeavors require discipline. When are we most fully alive? When we embrace a life of discipline. The human person thrives on discipline.
Are you thriving? Or are you just surviving?
Discipline awakens us from our philosophical stupor and refines every aspect of the human person. Discipline doesn’t enslave or stifle us; rather, it sets us free to soar to unimagined heights. Discipline sharpens the human senses, allowing us to savor the subtler tastes of life’s experiences. Whether those experiences are physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual, discipline elevates them to their ultimate reality. Discipline heightens every human experience and increases every human ability. The life and teachings of Jesus Christ invite us to embrace this life-giving discipline.
Many people consider Jesus irrelevant today because he proposes a life of discipline. Is discipline then to be considered the core of Jesus’ philosophy? No. Christ proposes a life of discipline not for its own sake, and certainly not to stifle or control us; rather, he proposes discipline as the key to freedom.
In the midst of the complexities of this modern era, we find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by a thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments. We have subscribed to the adolescent notion that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without interference from any authority. Could the insanity of our modern approach to life be any more apparent? Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is the strength of character and the self-possession to do what is good, true, noble, and right. Therefore, freedom without discipline is impossible. Strength of character is not stumbled upon in life’s moments of need and temptation. Character is built little by little, over days, weeks, months, and years, with thousands of small and seemingly insignificant acts of discipline. Self-possession is not an unearned right, it is the privilege of the few who build it, defend it, and celebrate it by disciplining themselves.
Is freedom then to be considered the core of Jesus’ philosophy? No. What then, is the core of his philosophy? Well, as it turns out, the people of his own time were curious for an answer to this very question.
One day, while Jesus was teaching a large group of people in the synagogue, a man asked Our Lord a question from his position in the crowd. He was a learned man, one of those doctors of the law who were no longer able to understand the teaching God revealed to Moses because it had become so twisted and entangled in the ways of men. He questioned Jesus, saying, “Teacher, which is the greatest of the Commandments?”
Jesus opened his divine lips slowly, with the calm assurance of somebody who knows what he is talking about and replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole soul. This is the first and the greatest of the Commandments. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these two rest the whole law and all the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
Love is the core of Jesus’ philosophy. But, in order to love you must be free. For to love is to give your self freely and without reservation. Yet, to give your self – to another person, to an endeavor, or to God – you must first possess your self. This possession of self is freedom. It is a prerequisite for love, and is attained only through discipline.
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