Note: This is the core of my work on Christian ethics. It’s practical theology for everyday folks. I am available to speak to groups anywhere (if you can get me there) and delve into the detail of this Wheel, either as a whole or in part. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Many of us have read Scripture for years. Its words have blessed us, empowered us, given us hope because they speak of grace and forgiveness. But Scripture’s words also haunt us because we do not measure up to God’s standards. We all have our failings. We rest in God’s forgiving grace, but we also, over time, tend to grow content in our failures. We can even come to see our failings as good. For instance, it can seem OK to hate a loud and difficult neighbor even though Scripture clearly says to care for your neighbor.
I developed A Wheel of Christian Living as a way of connecting with God and God’s purposes for our lives. It is one way of seeking to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on our lives today. We are fellow strugglers and worshippers; we are brothers and sisters. God offers just the right words for us to hear.
The idea for a Wheel for Christian Living emerged from my reading of an article by Henri Nouwen.
Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in ministry, it looks like we are running around the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won’t have to run so fast.”
It can seem like living the Christian life is too difficult. We run fast and faster chasing the ideal, and it wears us out. The Bible offers a picture of godly living that is more realistic. The ideal is great, and we kill ourselves if we try to pursue that ideal of our own power. It simply is impossible. But Scripture paints a picture of a gracious and understanding God who desires to help us pursue godly living.
Using the wheel metaphor, I offer eight components to ethical living from a Christian perspective. This wheel has only eight spokes, so they must be strong to sustain the circumference of the wheel. At the center of this wheel is God, just as Nouwen pictured it. The spokes are these:
1-Listening to God—The Bible and the Holy Spirit
2-Continuing Conversion—Not a One-Time Event
3-Shaping Our Spirit—Spiritual Formation
4-Living in Community—Church, But Not That Local Building
5-Developing Character—Virtues & Vices
6-Providing Care—Help, Especially for the “Least of These”
7-Pursuing Justice—“Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”
8-Making Decisions—Big Ones and Small Ones Add Up to a Life
These components are understood in relation to stories—God’s story, the church’s story, and our individual stories. Life is real and takes on nuances in these different stories whereby we learn from others and vice versa. These stories are connected stories, yet individual. They matter because they are part of each of us, and God has told us we matter. God is a part of each story, and we are part of God’s, whether we realize it or not.
The most wonderful thing about our own stories is that we are still “writing” them. You have a back story, but your front story is open to change. Following and abiding in Christ enables us to envision new chapters for our stories that build on the earlier chapters which already are “in the books.” These new chapters can also be built on the stories of Christ and his church. My hope is that A Wheel of Christian Living will help you imagine new possibilities for your story—possibilities rooted in the nature of God and the life of Christ. As we follow and abide in Christ, we truly live.